Little House in the Big Woods

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I feel a little bit like I'm cheating with this book since it is a children's book. But, it just didn't seem right to start the year off with any other book. This was the book that kicked off my love of reading. I was seven years old when I read it for the first time, and it was the first "real" book I ever read. Real, according to my seven year old standards, meant that it had chapters and there were only pictures on some of the pages.

After reading this book I became obsessed with everything having to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder: I convinced my mother to tape the t.v. show for me when I was at school, I forced my sister to play endless hours of Little House, I braided my hair like Laura's, I used sponge curlers to make my hair look like Nellie's, and sometimes I would walk around the house just wearing a sunbonnet for no reason other than it filled me with joy. I was totally obsessed. I even dressed up like Laura for Halloween once. Of course, no one knew who I was supposed to be and I spent the whole night saying, "Well obviously, I'm Laura Ingalls Wilder." And, at the zenith of my Little House obsession, when I was nine, I talked my parents into re-routing our summer road trip so we could stop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder house museum in Missouri. I walked around the house thinking, "Wow, this is the exact spot Laura sat in when she wrote her books," while my brother stood in the background mumbling under his breathe, "Why did we have to drive all this way just to see the stupid house of a dead person". This was followed swiftly by, "Okay we came, you saw it, let's go." Knowing that it was bugging him so much to be there made the whole experience instantly more fun.

I usually re-read all of the Little House books every year, but this time it's been about 3 years. So today I approached the book with as fresh of eyes as an obsessed person can. Normally when I read this book I skip over the section in Chapter One that tells about butcher time. But for the sake of remaining true to the project, I actually read that part today. If you're a vegetarian I would highly recommend you stop reading when you come to the sentence that says: Then one day Uncle Henry came riding out of the Big Woods. You can pick back up around page 18 at the part that says: The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter. When you come to the picture where Laura and Mary are tossing something back and forth, just tell yourself it's a balloon and keep going.

A few random thoughts I had while reading the book:

  • I really am shallow. All I can think about while reading the part about Ma making butter is that it's a shame she always had to wear long sleeved dresses because I bet she would have looked great in sleeveless after all that butter churning.

That thought was followed quickly by:

  • I may be shallow, but at least I'm reading.
  • I'm a lazy reader. Not only do I normally skip over the butcher part, I also usually skip over reading the lyrics to the songs as well. I always tell myself, "It's just a song. It's not even relevant to the story." I think this blog is going to force me to be a more careful reader.
  • If the Ingalls family lived today Child Protective Services would be on their doorstep. They left a four year old and a six year old in charge of tending the fire, they teach their kids how to load rifles, and they make them carry around lanterns that have been lit. The former nanny in me is reeling at the negligence.
  • I'm so glad I don't live in a time period when people only bathe once a week. Really, really glad. There are so many aspects of that bathing-once-a-week thing that are too gross to even contemplate. Every time I read this book I come away from it with a renewed appreciation for modern hygiene.
  • Mary is annoying. She just is. It's hard to like anyone who is that perfect all the time. When my sister and I played Little House as children we would fight over who got stuck having to play Mary. And whenever I talk about the books with a fellow Little House fan, they talk about how much they liked Laura because she was so fun and spunky, but I've yet to hear anyone say Mary was their favorite. She's just too good and perfect and boring to be anyones favorite.

So, my thoughts on the book aren't deep, profound, life-changing revelations. But I hope you've enjoyed reading them anyway. Please join me tomorrow dear readers. And if anyone actually does like Mary the best, feel free to mention it in the comments section. I promise I won't judge you for it. I will, however, shake my head in confusion.