One of the reasons I’m grateful that I got to have at least one child is that I was given the opportunity to revisit the Little House series. My old books, purchased in the late 60s/early 70s, got to come off the shelf over a period of about 6 years as James and I followed the Ingalls family from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. I didn’t finish the series with him. He suspects, I think, that Laura married Almanzo, but doesn’t know about her school teaching days, when Almanzo went out to pick her up and bring her home; he doesn’t know about Nellie Oleson’s return and attempts to get Almanzo; he doesn’t know about those ‘first four years’ of Laura’s marriage, or of their eventual move to Missouri. He does know about that long, long winter when Almanzo went to get the grain for the whole town. We did get to visit DeSmet, South Dakota in real life.
So now those old books sit on my shelf, probably never to be read again by me. I’ve way too many books to read in the little time I have left here. They’ll be passed on, hopefully, to my grandchildren. Maybe I’ll get to read a chapter here and there to them, but the blessed task to read through (most) all of them will fall to James and/or their mother. I know the stories aren’t all factual — [real life spoiler alerts!: the chronology is off, and places like their home in Iowa, and people like little brother Frederick are left out; Mr. Edwards, Nellie Oleson, and others are fiction or compilation of real people] — but they are so beautifully written, and they do tell the reality of the comforts and hardships that a little girl remembered. When she (with help from daughter Rose) wrote these books in the 30s and 40s, the times of Laura’s childhood — those days of the pioneers of the west — were already past, and she and her daughter felt that people ought to be reminded of those, in some ways, simpler times. And here we are 80+ years after the first were published, still needing to be reminded of those days. They are not merely interesting in a trivia sort of a way; there are many ideas worthy of imitation. I think often ‘what would Ma Ingalls do’ when I try to be the domestic queen while dealing with all the distractions of this technological age.
So, Laura Ingalls Wilder, thank you for telling your story as you told it, and for giving me places to go and things to think about over and over when I was young. I’m glad I got to revisit you and your family with my own son. Maybe we’ll meet again here and there. Maybe. Here’s hoping.