In which our Lady relives Life on the Prairie.
I recently listened to the audio book Little House on the Prairie. I’m pretty sure I read this as a grade-schooler, but it was a whole new book as an adult. Here are some thoughts I had as I read:
1. Wow. They are really grateful for a teensy house with a rough wood floor. And apparently window glass is not a necessity, but a luxury. Lesson in gratitude, anyone?
2. At the end of the book, Laura sees a “papoose,” begins sobbing, and tells her parents that she wants ‘it’. Their response is as expected: how ridiculous, that papoose has a mommy and it should stay with her. And Laura is scolded. It is obvious that there is a symmetry here in the story, a comparison with the white pioneers taking over Indian territory. In the beginning of the book I worried that it there wouldn’t be any commentary, or even acknowledgement of these big issues. I am pleased that there is indeed acknowledgement, but also relieved that the author doesn’t linger on the topic or dredge up guilt. Instead, she just states how it was and how they dealt with it, letting the commentary exist somewhere in the undefined space between words.
3. I was impressed by the incredible obedience Mary and Laura had for their parents. There is one spot where Charles the father says, “Girls, did you even think about disobeying me?” Of course they had, and they actually admitted it. The consequences would have been dire (Indian War, etc…) but I found their amount of respect and deference astonishing. I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid act like that—and it’s not like Charles was beating these little girls into submission or anything either. We may not have Indian raids to worry about today, but I doubt the danger is any less for children today—maybe even worse. I find myself wondering how to get Eva to understand obedience better.
4. I spent the first half wishing for a little more feminism on Caroline (the mother’s) behalf. Her harshest comment to her husband upon him moving her away from her extended family and comfortable home in “the big woods” was, “Oh, Charles…” Gee whiz Caroline. Is that all you have to say?
5. The last half of the book it finally occurred to me that Caroline really loved her husband, Charles, and would do almost anything for him because of that profound love. Also, it was plain by then that Charles was an excellent husband and father. My conclusion is that a person will go through a lot for their spouse because their love will lend them strength and drive them on. I think of my husband Jon and all he’s had to go through in the past months. None of it was pleasant, but he bowed his head and swam with the current the best he could. Again, we don’t have Indian raids to worry about, but are the struggles any less real? What if Caroline had destroyed her husband’s dreams with harsh words? What if she had decided the sacrifice of staying with him wasn’t worth it? What good would it have done? What if Jon had gotten fed up with me when I was on too many medications and a little crazy from brain swelling? What if he’d decided the sacrifice of living in new (cancerous) territory wasn’t worth it? So, here’s to all the ‘Caroline’s’ in the world. Often ignored, but essential to any successful pioneering venture.