Every summer I get a bug of nostalgia that has me revisiting some of my favorite books from childhood. These side trips are even more special now that my kids are old enough to enjoy them with me.
We just finished reading Little House on the Prairie together, and it was so fun to see them become enthralled in the daily lives of the Ingalls family. As a child I was smitten with a romanticized image of those good ol’ days of log cabins, heading west, one-room schoolhouses, the simple life . . . can you feel the soft breezes and hear the stillness of the gentle, windswept prairie?
That was my impression then. Reading through these books as an adult, a mom of young children, I have a very different impression. Nothing in me is tempted to forge into untamed territory with my vulnerable offspring in tow, with only a wagonload of gear, and meet absolutely not one other human being as we cover mile after slow mile for weeks, even months. All I can wonder is, Were they out of their ever-lovin’ minds?! The risks, the dangers, the isolation, the lack of available medical help or companionship of girlfriends . . . the whining of kids who wonder if they’re there yet! (“No! Not yet! Maybe not ever!!!”)
This second book of the Little House series sends the young family of five to Kansas. Two twentysomethings alone with three small children. Alone. Day after day. In the middle of nowhere. No doctors for high fevers, no antibiotics for ear infections, no dentists with happy gas for tooth fillings. But of course nothing could hurt them when Pa and bulldog Jack were there.
Can I get a big “Whatever!” from anyone else out there?
Don’t get me wrong. I love an adventure as much as the next gal. I’ve zip-lined, spelunked, para-sailed, camped, visited more than one third-world country, relocated several hundred miles, had two C-sections, rescued my child from beneath the pounce of an overly zealous stray dog, pulled same child from drowning in a water barrel, remained calm through several of his little sister’s toddlerhood choking episodes, and lived to tell about all of it. But their family undertook that journey by themselves, facing hundreds of miles of isolation and elements and potential scalping in enemy territory without even the mediocre safety of a wagon train.
I’d like to ask Ma what her plan was if something had happened to Pa. What exactly would she have done with herself and her little girls should Charles have drowned crossing that raging river? Did she know the direction to Kansas? Did they have any regrets when they all nearly died of malaria on the plains, forty miles from the nearest town? Or how about when they waited up all night for Pa to return home in a freezing storm or when a panther nearly pounced on him or when a pack of wolves ran alongside his horse for miles or when Caroline nearly got crushed from a tree that fell on her as she and Charles were building their log cabin?
Did their children have nightmares for long after being terrorized by an Indian war-cry night after night? Did their stomachs drop when they learned that they and their innocent girls were minutes away from being slaughtered until a tribal chief spoke on their behalf to several entire tribes?
The book is still fresh; I could go on with the stories, but I bet you get the idea. After half of that excitement I’d have been heading back to the big woods of Wisconsin–or many other places, for that matter.
Really, what were they thinking? Surely they could have come up with a better plan.
But then again, maybe they’d cringe at our modern way of life. I bet they’d be bug-eyed over the clothes we wear, moreso over what we don’t cover, the images that flash across our TV screens, the stories of devastation on our news, the prices we pay for satellite TV, internet, gasoline–heck, not just the prices but those very things. Yes, I guess we have our own challenges of life today.
Grass may or may not be greener, who’s to say.
What do you think? Would you be up for life back then? Why or why not? What other era and location would you like to try?