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Little House on The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder has been a part of our family’s winter reading for many years now. This year, I rediscovered it with a fresh perspective.
Last October, I shared my yearly tradition of reading through the Little House on The Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When my boys were tiny tykes we read through this series as part of a history/reading project. We all took turns reading aloud. The boys enjoyed taking things from the books to do as projects. We made some of the recipes, planted some of the things they talked about, and did some of the things the Ingalls family did, like reading by lamp light.
They enjoyed it so much we did it again the next year and before we knew it we were reading them through just for fun. We started in October and usually finished the end of February, first part of March. Once, when they were in their late teens, October sneaked up on me and no one mentioned it. I decided the tradition was over because of their age. One Saturday morning my eldest came to me and asked, “Are we going to read Little House this year?” After I explained I thought they didn’t want to, they all said they did. So the tradition continued until the eldest went to college. We all agreed it just wasn’t the same when we weren’t all there.
Now, all these years later, I begin to feel the urge to nest in and curl up with the series as soon as fall comes around. I gave my grandmother a set when she was in the nursing home. Later, they were returned to me and I read that set. My oldest son has the set we used when they were boys.
With our sudden move from west central Louisiana to northwest Idaho this past November, I was behind on my reading. Once we were settled and I was able to start reading, I was amazed at the difference in my perspective. In the past, I’ve always identified with Laura. Imagining her in the moves, the house building, the various predicaments she came up against, her chores, all those identifiable incidents in her life. This time however, I found myself identifying with Pa and Ma in real and new ways.
I found myself sympathizing with packing up all their belongings, loading them into a wagon and heading out into the unknown. I wondered at all the work Ma did from sunup to bedtime. When they were crossing the river on the ice, I remembered how I felt in the Pass of the Montana mountains when we were sliding while driving in the sleet and snow.
Think about their traveling. We got to see state welcome signs and our GPS told us where we were. How did they know where they were? Which way to go? When they had arrived somewhere? Maps were crude at best.
She cooked over an open fire while they traveled. We do it for fun, but it’s a lot of work. She did laundry in tubs then lay it out on the grass to dry. Then, she ironed! On the open prairie! I hate ironing more than I hate dusting so I can imagine how that must have been.
The idea of not having a grocery store, or all the supplies you need made me think about the American idea of “I want it so I have to have it.” Living with our needs met is not sufficient for most people. No one ever complained about Ma putting beans and bread out for supper or just biscuits and butter for breakfast. With the hard labor it took for them to do the simple activities of daily living…I just wonder at the thankful attitude they had and how it is lacking in our society today.
When they moved after being settled in a place for a while, I could not help but wonder what must have been going through Ma and Pa’s minds. Where will we go? Where will we live? How will we get the things we need? Not once did you read where they argued or discussed those things. However, people have to learn to trust God, it isn’t our natural state. You know they did wonder and discuss these thoughts and feelings between themselves. The concern and thought that must have gone in to their journeys, especially with the girls there.
When the long winter came the persistence, patience, and perseverance of Ma and Pa amazed me. Who would have thought to weave hay into sticks for burning when they ran out of coal and there was no wood? Grinding wheat berries in the coffee grinder to make a coarse brown bread when all else was gone…and they were thankful for it – that’s all they had for weeks on end.
You see how my thoughts were drawn to the view of the parents? When Laura married Almanzo Wilder, I felt the ache in Ma and Pa’s hearts as they were proud and sad all at the same time. I was especially aware of this occasion as my eldest son was married this past December.
Sharing with you these thoughts and ideas, makes me wonder about you. How is your journey going? Are you thankful, no matter what hardship you might be experiencing right now? I’m thankful for the records of those left behind that help remind us of how it was, how perseverance and faith matter. A thankful spirit is transforming. I thing the most important thing I gained from this revisiting is how working together and doing what needs to be done for the good of all is what matters more than what I want for myself.
If you haven’t read the books, or if you haven’t read them in a while, I encourage you to do so. Give them as a gift to someone you know who likes to read. I know in our modern day of eBooks paper is considered “old-fashioned”, but there is something magical about holding a book and reading.
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Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack