, Derry, New Hampshire


December 19, 2013

Column: Christmas has always been about the joy of children

For most of us when thinking of Christmases past we can’t avoid using such phrases as “magical,” “joyful,” or “wondrous.” This holiday is truly special and easily idealized into a time remembered when everything seemed softer and more beautiful; when the air was filled the sounds of holiday songs and the squeals of excited children, all blending with the smell of apple pie and evergreens; a time when families gather together at grandma’s house to celebrate the love that united them with each other.

In December 1906, there was in southern Derry a family of six living in a farmhouse by the side of the road to Salem. The family was constantly struggling to make ends meet and the father had recently been forced to give up farming so he could teach part time at Pinkerton Academy. His yearly salary, while only $500, was better then the vagary of an income earned by farming.

The four children were home-schooled and part of their education required that they write a journal of their daily life. The journal of Lesley, the family’s oldest child, was published in 1969 in a remarkable book called “New Hampshire’s Child.” One page from her original journal somehow got missed and wasn’t included in the book. Here published for the first time is the recently discovered missing entry which is about Christmas Eve in 1906. It is reprinted with the kind permission of her daughter Lesley Lee Francis of Arlington, Va. And as you may have already guessed, the story was written by the precociously talented Lesley Frost Ballantine (1899-1983) the daughter of America’s favorite poet, Robert Frost.

The story is titled “Papa Goes to See Santa Claus” and is here presented exactly as the 7-year-old girl wrote it 106 years ago.

“One day before Christmas papa said to us i am going out in the alders to see santa claus and i must take the axe. I tried to make him tell me what he was going to do with the axe but he would not.”

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