Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Laura!!

When I was 9 years old, I wrote a formal letter of protest to my elementary school librarian because the Little House on the Prairie books were shelved under fiction, rather than biography where I rightfully thought they should be. Mrs. Watson (I remember her still--an ancient woman who had those really skinny fingers and big knuckles so that her rings slid all around) gently explained that Laura had changed some of the facts of her up-bringing in order to make her stories more...well, story-like.


And so, as I grew up, and my Laura obsession grew with me, I had more opportunities to read more historical accounts of my hero's life. I learned that Pa was, really, kind of a loser. Never satisfied, never successful, and maybe just a little shady if that Kansas deal were to be looked at a little more closely. I realized that Laura spent much of her life hungry--physically undernourished. Looking at the generations that followed...wait, there were no generations that followed. Laura's only daughter remained childless. Mary never married. Neither Carrie, nor Grace had children of their own. This is what our family calls: Bummer Theater.

So, now, I applaud Laura more than ever for being able to infuse what was really an ordinary, and rather difficult existence, and turn it into timeless story. Her books embody a certain grace and mercy--a willingness to forgive what was denied to her, and an eagerness to hi-light the blessings. Warmth, food, shelter, music--these luxuries crowd the pages, making it impossible to imagine there were any times of trepidation. Even The Long Winter, easily the darkest book in the series (and, my favorite), comes forth as a triumph of the family, rather than the tragedy it played in the on-going health of her younger sisters. The picture here was taken just after the end of that winter. Look how tiny these girls are--but then, look at that balled-up fist at Laura's side. This is a girl determined to fight, destined to live well beyond her years.

Do yourself a favor. If you don't already have a copy of the books stashed somewhere in your house, go to your local library and spend an hour in Laura's world.


  1. I practically memorized these books, I read them so much as a child! How I loved them. Appreciate them even more now that I've read this. As an adult, I knew that things were obviously probably romanticized, but I had no idea things were that grim.

    (Although I do remember being horrified in These Happy Golden Years by the situation when she was teaching and that awful woman in the house where she lived. I counted the days with her, hoping Almanzo would show up to take her home each Friday!)

  2. Ah--LOVE These Happy Golden Years! I consider that my first romance book...it was certainly the first book I ever read that had a plot dedicated to love, courtship and marriage!

  3. I read all of the books, cover to cover, when I was a kid. I owned a copy of all of them. I read them at least twice, maybe thrice or more! :-)

    I also eagerly watched the series for several years, too. I was disgruntled that they changed some of the "facts". Like, Mary never got married, and there was no Albert or Adam Kendall in the novels.

    This blog post reminds me of a presentation I attended at a local library when I was a kid. My mother took me and my three sisters to see a slide show about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember the picture of Rose and she was frowning because(as the librarian stated) nobody noticed the pretty ring she was wearing.

    I'm curious, did you read Rose Wilder Lane's biography? I read some of it - it's hard for me to read biographies and non-fiction, know what I mean? Anyway, at some point, it was alluded that Rose wrote the Little House books on her mom's behalf. Can't recall if this was addressed in her biography, or, if I heard it elsewhere. Laura wrote The First Four Years. The biography was called Ghost In The Little House.

  4. Mocha With Linda - I remember those Happy Golden Years! That woman in that house was just awful, simply awful! It was great when Almanzo showed up to take Laura home! I recall Laura telling Almanzo that he didn't have to come and take her home every week, but, he did anyway! Also, I remember in that book, there was a snowstorm? The terrible woman's husband told Laura that the snow was so high that none of the kids would be showing up to school.