My first introduction to Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder came, like many from my generation, via the television series based on her books, "Little House on the Prairie". I looked forward each week to watching the latest episode of Laura and her family as they lived life together out on the prairie. The hard times, how they worked together as a family, and the love and laughter they shared brought her world alive in mine.
I even had a little sunbonnet that I loved wearing, more than Laura probably did. I've kept that bonnet all these years. It has a colorful patchwork pattern on it with a red rick rack trim. I'll have to see if I can find it during nap time today and take a picture of it!
The first LHOTP book I read was Farmer Boy. I remember reading it, but oddly not enjoying it much. I loved to read and read voraciously, but had a hard time getting into that book, in fact I think I gave it up for a time. After I started the series at the beginning with Little House in the Big Woods and read through the series in order I loved Farmer Boy when I got to it. I'm not sure what caused the change, but I'm glad I did not give up on the series. As an adult, that is one of my favorite of her books.
Many years passed from my childhood. When I was in my early twenties I was at a garage sale where I purchased the VHS tape of the original "Little House" movie that launched the series as well as a well-worn set of the books. I eventually placed the set of books in my classroom library and more time went on.
One year during an English class lesson I was teaching on descriptive writing we read an excerpt from On The Shores of Silver Lake. I was enthralled. I took the set of books home that night and began to reread them myself. Now, examining and enjoying the series for the beauty of the writing and the depth of her descriptions, my love for all things Laura was rekindled.
As a class we talked about her writing from a descriptive viewpoint. I shared with the class how Laura became her sister Mary's eyes after Mary became blind. Learning to see for another, I believe, helped develop her awareness to a better degree than an average child might have had. As she sought to describe the world around her in a way that Mary could "see" she was able to learn how to put her life and experiences into words. I think that is what makes her such an extraordinary writer. I can always see what she is writing in my mind's eye.
More years have passed. I reread the series each year to myself just for fun. Last Christmas I read a picture book based on the Christmas chapter in Little House in the Big Woods to Pumpkin. It quickly became one of his favorite books to read together. I recently began to read the full book to he (and Pumpkin) at the table during lunch. I know, at two and a half, Pumpkin doesn't really understand the story, but he loves being read to and I love reading aloud. Plus, it sure beats a lot of the books written today.
Each little chapter weaves it way into our lives. The lessons learned, not just about pioneer life, but about life in general, stitch together the lessons we want to teach our sons. Lessons about appreciation, hard work, working together, using our time well, and having a lot of fun in creative ways, are things we each need in our lives. Keeping at the chores when I'd rather go read a blog because I am reminded that Ma always completed her work quickly and diligently encourages me to keep on the path set before me. Adding little touches of beauty, without cost, using what one already has in a new way, or making something new yourself, are other lessons I've learned from Ma.
Little patches of memories from the stories, from my own life, come together in unexpected ways. Mismatched lives, set in very different times and different places, sewn together in thoughts and actions create their own designs. Placing these little bits together, seeing how they may fit, pieced together from so many disparate parts creates its own beauty just as a quilt.
Stop on over to Quill Cottage for her "I Remember Laura" Blog-a-Thon. This week's theme is a quilting theme. This quilt was something my mom bought when I was a young girl. The quilt top was pieced together from old aprons (How perfect!) from the 40's and 50's. My mom then quilted it and added the backing. She gave it to me in February when I redid our bedroom. It's the only quilt I've ever wanted. It brings a smile to my face every time I enter our room. The flower with the little roses on seersucker was always my favorite as a child. It still is.