Laura and Me   3 comments

When I listened to my weather radio this morning I learned that the record low for our city was set in 1876.  Laura was nine years old when that record was set.

Why do I even know that?

I happen to have been born 100 years after she was, and so in any given year I can easily remember her age.

When I discovered I was almost exactly 100 years younger than Laura Ingalls Wilder, it added to the kinship I felt with her and her family.

For one thing, my father also looked like Abe Lincoln, was born in a log cabin, and had itchy feet.  And to me it appeared that he could either fix or make anything we needed.  A child of the Great Depression, he knew how to make do. The best illustration of this came on our move from Colorado to Oklahoma.  The engine of our bright red VW camper died and left us on the side of the road in hot, empty eastern Colorado.  It appeared some small part in the engine had broken.  My father had a package of Black Cat firecrackers stowed in the glove box (why no idea), and he inserted one into the gap, and got the van running again.  We’d drive anywhere from two to ten miles and the firecracker would burn up.  Stop.  Open engine compartment.  Insert new firecracker.  Repeat.

My family moved all over the west when I was a child, in search of I’m not sure what, but this helped give the four of us the bond that can only come from helping each other walk through being the new people in a new place multiple times.  My brother and I lived with a father who was ever ready for a new adventure in a new part of the country, while his wife would have been more inclined to stay where society (musical, literary, church and political) was established.  Ma Ingalls only put her foot down one time when Pa wished to go further west again,  but my mother expressed her frustration in a different way.

We had recently moved to Colorado, where my father had started work at the Denver Service Center for the National Park Service.  My parents were in the process of buying the first house that was their own, not government issue, when my father saw a posting for a Coast Guard job in Juneau, Alaska.  Doubting he would be properly qualified, he applied anyway.  We had been in our lovely new house with blue wall to wall carpet and a pool table in the basement for merely weeks, when he called my mother with the fantastic news.

He had the job!

Mom was so mad, she hung up on him.  That did not stop us from moving to Alaska, however.

Another way in which I identified with Laura was in the love of words and books we shared.  I liked the way she thought through difficulties and questions.  I resonated with her fear of being the new girl at school and all those unknowns.

It goes without saying that I read her books innumerable times.  Which is my favorite?  Hard to say.

I read The Long Winter and emerge with Laura once again into spring, lettuce and new peas in the garden, after twisting hay to burn for fuel most of the winter.  I read On the Banks of Plum Creek and rejoice when Nellie gets her comeuppance via leeches.   I read Little House in the Big Woods and hear “Now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” It sets the strings of the past reverberating in my heart.

But my past or hers?  Somehow, a bit of both.


3 responses to “Laura and Me

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  1. I printed this one. Mom

  2. I’m so excited to discover your blog, Jenny! I’m reading through the Little House books with Elisabeth right now, and we just read tonight about the time the Indians rode by their house and Laura wanted to keep the little Indian baby. I have to admit, I’m a lot more like Pa/your father and it’s harder for me to be content staying in one place. 🙂

  3. Oh I remember that scene. How she wanted something so much and couldn’t even put it into words why and then was made to be ashamed of that longing. Thanks for commenting. I like to travel, correction, love to travel. I just want to come back to the same home, always.

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