Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wanting to Be Laura Ingalls

Yesterday I went on and on about how much I love to read. (And about the Kindle. Which, in hindsight, was a little over the top.)

My mom sent me an email and said that I had two of her favorite books on my reading list: A Tale of Two Cities and The Secret Garden; if I also had Johnny Tremain I would have completed the trifecta. It got me thinking about the books I loved most when I was a little girl.

The answer was easy: Little House on the Prairie. (The entire series, but especially "These Happy Golden Years and Little House in the Big Woods.)

Oh, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. I wanted CLEARLY to be Pa's favorite and have him call me Half Pint because I was little. (I was NOT my dad's favorite, and no one ever would have described my sturdy frame as little. More like "chunky".) I wanted to be resourceful, clever and brave out in the wilderness. (Instead I was clumsy and accident prone.) Heaven help me, I even wanted to hold my head up high while mean Nellie Olson took cheap shots at me and my family. (Instead of sucking it in and then going into my room and crying, which was my usual m.o. when someone mocked me.)

But alas, I was born too late to be Laura Ingalls. The closest I came to having a farm or homestead was the vegetable garden my dad planted every year (which was fabulous, but we didn't need it for survival, and weren't plagued by crows or grasshoppers or drought). I didn't have to walk to town to go to school -- the bus came to my house. I didn't need to be brave or resourceful -- I just had to try to get along with my sister and play nicely with others.

But such was the power of those stories that I could wish I lived that kind of life. I could dream that I did.

I guess that's why it breaks my heart a little when I hear someone of any age say that they don't like to read, that they don't think that books hold anything of value for them. I always think, silently, but what about the stories? How can you not love a story? How can you not be beside yourself with excitement at the idea that for a little bit you can live right inside another life, where you ARE defending your sister in a one-room schoolhouse instead of being stuck in bed recovering from an appendectomy? Where you can imagine the smell of the snow as that dashing Alonzo Wilder takes you home in a winter sleigh instead of waiting in the dentist's office?

Laura Ingalls was one of the reasons I became a teacher, and she remains one of the reasons that I so love to read.

I guess I owe her one.

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