A Thanksgiving Promise

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

The front door clicked open and Almanzo strolled into the house.

Laura looked up from plucking the feathers off a turkey lying on the table. "Hi Manly. Chores all done?"

Almanzo hung his Stetson and coat on the hooks next to the front door. "Yep. All set until dinner time." He pecked Laura on the cheek. "I didn't realize how big that Tom was when I shot him."

Laura smiled. "Good thing too. Now I'm just worried about where everyone will sit."

"Oh, I didn't tell you." Almanzo walked back into the kitchen from the pantry, where he had stolen a slice of bread. He pulled off a corner and stuffed it into his mouth. "I started making a small table and four chairs a few weeks ago. They're sitting inside the barn."

"Wonderful! It will be so special to have everyone here."

Rose sat on the floor next to the fireplace playing with her doll. She undressed and redressed the doll over and again. A set of wooden blocks Mr. Edwards had carved for her, lay scattered at her feet.

"What time will Eliza Jane be here?" Almanzo bent over and picked up Rose and her doll. He kissed the girl's cheek. "Hi Rosie Posie."

Laura gathered the feathers into a cloth bag. The pillows could use some additional stuffing. "She's coming in on the morning stage. Will you take Jenny with you into town?"

"Where is she?"

"She went off to the Carters." Laura salted the huge bird and then slid it into a bag, which she tied. She would put it in the root cellar overnight to keep it fresh for tomorrow. "She made a pie for them and wanted to bring it over."

"Maybe she just wanted to see Jeb," teased Almanzo. He sat in the rocking chair in front of the fireplace, bouncing Rose on his knee.

"They're only friends."

"Good thing too. He's too young for me to punch."

Laura spun around. "Almanzo Wilder! Why on earth would you say such a thing?" She planted her right fist firmly on her hip.

The corner of his lip lifted into a crooked grin. "As I recall, your pa punched me a couple of times when he thought I was getting fresh with you."

The mention of Pa reminded Laura of the miles separating her from the family. It had only been a few months since Ma, Pa, Carrie, Grace, and Albert had moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, but it seemed like years since she saw them off that late summer morning. Thankfully she had gotten one last chance to see Pa when he came to pick up the rest of the family's belongings; but it wasn't enough. Who knew when they would see each other again? She had been pregnant with Rose when she last saw her sister Mary and brother-in-law Adam.

Letters from her family brought with them a mixture of joy and sadness. She looked forward to hearing about the goings on in Iowa and New York, but it made the distance between Laura and the others seem wider.

Lost in her thoughts, Laura didn't realize Almanzo had put Rose down on the floor and stood next to her until his hand touched her shoulder.

He lifted her chin. "Did I say somethin' wrong?"

Laura sighed. "No, it's just—"

"You miss them."

Laura sank into his open arms. "Oh Manly, I wish Pa hadn't moved so far away. It was hard saying goodbye to Mary and Adam, but at least the rest of the family was here. But now—"

She found the lump in her throat impossible to swallow. Tears swam in her eyes and she tightened her grasp around Almanzo's waist. "And God help me, there are times when I visit Sarah that I find myself angry they live in the house I grew up in. I walk through the door and expect to find Ma in the kitchen and the china shepherdess sitting on the mantle…but instead there are these strange belongings that seem so out of place."

Almanzo kissed the top of her head. "I sometimes think of the farm in New York. Goin' down to the Trout River to chop ice for the ice house. Sheering sheep and breaking in the calves. The time I threw a blackening brush at Eliza Jane and hit the parlor wall. Royal poppin' popcorn while Mother sat in her rocking chair and knitted." He paused and swallowed hard. " I'm not so sure I would wanna go there now and see other people making memories of their own in my house."

He stepped back so he could gaze into Laura's chocolate eyes. "But I know I'm enjoyin' making new memories with you; memories that we can share with Rose when she's older—the good ones and the bad ones." He blinked back tears. "I don't think I ever realized how much I looked up to Royal until I found out he was gonna die. I miss him." His voice hitched on the last words.

They stood in silence for a few moments, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. Rose looked up at them. She picked up a block and smiled. They couldn't help but laugh.

Almanzo and Laura knelt down on the floor next to their daughter. Rose crawled up into Laura's lap. Almanzo's gaze took in his two lovely ladies. When his eyes met Laura's, the warmth of the fire was nothing compared to the warmth of their love.

The door flew open and Jenny ran inside. "I came back as soon as I could," she said. When she saw their faces her mouth turned into a frown. "Is everything all right?"

Almanzo's crooked smiled covered his face. "Don't fret, Jenny, everythin' is fine. Come on over here a minute."

Coat and all, Jenny plopped down on the floor next to them. A devilish glint danced in Almanzo's blue eyes.

"Now, I hadn't said anythin' about this yet, but considering how much your Aunt Laura is missing her family, and how we really want you to get to know them, I was thinkin' next Thanksgiving we would take a trip to Burr Oak and spend a few days there." He tugged Jenny's braid. "Would you like that?"

"Oh, yes, Uncle Manzo." Jenny's lips parted over her buck teeth.

"Can we afford to make such a trip?" asked Laura. She didn't even want to get her hopes up. Almanzo's illness had put them deeply in debt. He was fully recovered now, but who knew what type of harvest there would be next year.

Almanzo folded his hands in his lap. "Royal gave me some money he had saved up from selling his house. I didn't say much about it because I wasn't quite sure what we should do with it."

Rose squirmed off Laura's legs and picked up her doll again. She banged it on the floor a few times before handing it to Jenny.

"But isn't that Jenny's money?" asked Laura. "Shouldn't we save it for her?"

Almanzo shrugged. "Royal told me to use it however I needed to. I'm hoping we'll have a good enough harvest next year that we can pay the bills and still have enough money to make the trip. The Farmer's Almanac says winter will be mild again this year, but if somethin' unexpected happens, we might need to use some or all of the money Royal gave me if we want to go to Burr Oak."

Laura shook her head. "I don't know. I wouldn't feel right about using that money just because I'm missing my family."

Almanzo chuckled as Rose grabbed her doll and smacked Jenny's arm with it. "Rosie Posie, you need to be a good mama. Treat your baby nice." Rose wrapped her arms around the doll and squeezed.

Everyone laughed.

"I guess it's up to you, Jenny." Almanzo patted her leg. "If you want to go, we'll go; but if you want us to hold onto that money, then we will."

"Uncle Manzo, do you think Papa gave me that money so that I could be happy?"

"I suppose so."

Jenny turned to Laura and smiled. "It would make me very happy to go to Burr Oak and meet our family."

Laura reached over and hugged her niece. "Are you sure?"

Jenny nodded. "You've told me so many stories about them, I feel like I know them already. I would really like to meet them for real."

Almanzo stood and stretched. "Now that's settled, you and I best be getting' some breakfast and headin' into town to pick up your Aunt Eliza Jane. The stage will be here soon."

"I can't wait!" Jenny bounced with excitement.

After breakfast, Laura walked them to the door. She hugged Jenny and then lifted the heels of her feet off the floor so she could peck Almanzo's cheek.

"I love you," she said.

"I love you too, Beth. While we're gone why don't you write to your folks and tell them we plan to be there next year for Thanksgiving."

"I will."

As she closed the door and heard the wagon pulling out of the front yard, Laura felt happy for the first time in days. She looked forward to seeing her family again. She would approach this year's growing season with a zest she had not felt since she was a girl. Tomorrow, as her family gathered around the kitchen table with Hester Sue, Doc Baker, Reverend Alden, Mr. Edwards, and Eliza Jane, she would be thankful for a Thanksgiving promise.