Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Little House in the Big Woods

This is starting a quick trend of devouring childhood books.

I have the Wilder collection that was originally my mothers when she was a child. When I was a little kid I would watch Little House on the Prairie on tv and pretend that I too lived in a prairie for hours and hours. I also played "American Girls" but that's for another post.

I recall my mother reading this book to me and when I was old enough I read it myself. But it was quickly placed aside and I never finished the rest of the series. American Girls took over my life and I preferred those books to these.

Now sitting down and choosing to read the faded with age book I rediscovered the novel that helped create so many childhood play times. But not only that, I got to discover the way people once lived. As a child the story was simply fuel to a fire I was building for my own entertainment. But now, as an adult, reading the book opened my eyes to the life of people in the nineteenth century and how they truly lived on meager things.

A poignant point of the book was the chapter about Christmas. Here these children were thrilled to receive new mittens, a stick of candy, and the youngest- Laura- received her first rag doll. To them, this was a grand amount of items for their Christmas pleasures, but to the current day... even someone who had been 'naughty' wouldn't get so few things. If you don't get that new iPhone, a car, a computer, those plane tickets to Florida so you can go on vacation with your boyfriend of two months... it's the end of the world.

Every chapter, although at a different point of the year, consisted of the same idea: The father went hunting, would build items for the house, work on crops. The mother would sew, clean, cook within the house, prepare foods to be stored over winter (many of these items taking days to prepare). The children would play, but they would also help their parents with multiple tasks and without much complaint. It was what was expected of them.

They knew where their food came from and they made use of what they had as much as possible and with as little waste as could be had. Now the people of today would probably be seen as immensely lazy. Children helping make dinner every day? Children making sure to watch the younger ones in addition to helping around the house. Using snow for food or water if needed- we couldn't do that now- not with the pollution.

Imagine being in your house for the entire span of winter. Only being allowed to go out once or twice to play and if you were an adult only to check on the animals, hunt for food, or get more wood for the fire that is the only thing keeping your family warm. We, the people of today, could never survive.

I recall being a child and two instances where I thought "This is what it must be like in Little House"... once a water main broke in town and everyone lost water in the entire neighborhood for nearly a week. So that week we would boil down snow to use for baths and fill the toilets. Another time was when we lost power for days on end and I recall sleeping in the living room which was above our wood stove (that was in the basement) so we could stay warm. We cooked eggs and bacon on the top of the wood stove and would play board games and eat in the basement since it was so warm. They were exciting times for me as a child but exhausting for my parents.

So really, this book is entertainment for a child. An easy way to pick up ideas for playtime. But if you were to read it as an adult and consider all that we have, all that they did not, it's truly educational and really eye opening as to how... spoiled... we are.

NEXT UP: American Girls: Kirsten

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