A Child's Christmas Wish(9)

By: Erica Vetsch

“What did you dream this time, punkin? That you were a princess?”

Her brown eyes grew round. “How did you know?”

He gave her a squeeze, tucking her head under his chin for a moment. “It might be because we read the princess story again before bedtime last night.”

Liesl giggled and shoved herself upright. Her hair wisped around her face, and she smeared it back with both hands. “I did dream I was a princess, and you were there, and we had a picnic, and I had a pink dress, and there were beautiful white horses and sunshine and cake.”

“So, it’s a pink dress now, is it? Yesterday it was blue. I thought blue was your favorite color.” He sat up and wrapped the blanket around her again, scooting up to rest his back against the headboard.

“I like all the colors, but today I like pink best.” She fingered the stitches edging the blanket. “Pink, with blue flowers? For Christmas?”

He laughed. “Pink with blue flowers. Got it.” Somewhere along the way, she’d latched on to the idea of presents for Christmas. He must’ve mentioned it to her once. That’s all it took with Liesl. Say something that interested her, and she grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. But he’d told her she could only expect one thing for Christmas, so she must be very sure what she decided upon. As a result, the wish changed every day.

He chucked her under the chin. “There’s something I need to tell you. We have visitors.”

Her little brows arched. “Where?” She looked around the room as if expecting them to pop out from behind the door.

Laughing, he dropped a kiss on her head. “They’re sleeping down the hall. Last night their house caught on fire, and they didn’t have anywhere else to sleep, so they came home with us.”

“A fire in a house?” Worry clouded her brown eyes. “What house?”

Pressing his forehead to hers, he wished he didn’t have to expose her to such harsh realities as house fires. “They are the Amakers, who live next door.”

“With the brown cows?” she asked.

“Yes, with the brown cows.” The Amaker pastures bordered Oscar’s land, and from the top of the hill, he and Liesl could look down and see the herd of Brown Swiss as they wended their way to the milking barn each evening. Speaking of which, he needed to get up and wake his guests as Kate had asked last night. There were chores to do, cows to milk and decisions to be made.

“Scamper back to your bed, Poppet, and I’ll be in to help you get dressed in a minute.”

“I can do it myself, Daddy.” She gave him a look that reminded him of her mother. Bossy, but sweet about it.

“I know, but I like to help.” And she still needed him, even if she didn’t think so, if only to fasten her dress up the back and button her little high-topped shoes.

He dressed quickly, ran his fingers through his unruly hair and went to Liesl’s room. She sat in the middle of her bed, leafing through one of the storybooks they read each night. She stopped on the picture of the princess. “See, pink.”

“I see.” He gathered her clothing. It was time to do laundry…again. It seemed he barely had the last washing put away before it was time to get out the tubs again. He would be the first to admit he wasn’t much of a housekeeper. The farm took so much of his time, the housework usually got a lick and a promise until he couldn’t ignore it any longer. “Well, it’s going to be a green dress today because that’s what’s clean.”

“I can do it, Daddy.” Liesl was growing more independent by the day, always wanting to be a bigger girl than she was. Oscar would do anything to hold back time, because he had firsthand knowledge of how fleeting it was, but that was something you couldn’t explain to a four-year-old.

He handed her the items one by one and she put them on. When it was time for her stockings, he got them started around her toes and heel and she pulled them up. Then the dress. She turned and showed him her back to do up the buttons. He laid her long, straight hair over her shoulder and fitted buttons to holes. Then her pinafore over the top, with a bow in the back.

“Time to do hair.” Oscar reached for her hairbrush on the bedside table.

Also By Erica Vetsch

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