May 20, 2005

I could use a (half) pint right about now...

Basically, TiVo made my latest reading choice(s) for me. Were it not for TiVo, I never would have watched Disney’s recent Little House on the Prairie miniseries, and the nostalgia never would have overtaken me. And so, gentle reader, I am writing to report that I spent the last couple of weeks reading the Little House books. Well, seven of them, anyway.* Which is why I haven't been posting about reading lately, because, as you see, I've been busy reading children's books.

While reading all seven became a little tiring by, oh, book four or so, I still love these books. Rereading them was the best idea TiVo has had for me in quite a while, and that’s saying something, because TiVo and I are really quite in sync.

I was completely enamored of these books when I was young. I used to play Little House on the Prairie in our yard. I’d build forts under the avocado trees, and, in preparation for "the long winter," would stash Saltines in a coffee can in a corner of the fort. I made a rag doll out of a dishrag to play with, even though I had plenty of lovely dolls inside the house, because I wanted to be just like a pioneer girl. When my family went on ski trips I would take maple syrup from our cupboard and drizzle it in the snow so I could make "candy" like Laura and Mary used to do. (That totally didn’t work, by the way.)

Oh, and so many more memories! My family had this tiny, isolated cabin with no electricity on a cattle ranch, and I used to spend HOURS fantasizing about spending a winter by myself at that cabin, Little House style. And in the books, Ma keeps her needles in a little needle book, and I once made my mother a similar one: I took three or four bits of fabric, stacked them up and sewed along one edge, so it was like a little, well, book. This gift was notable for two reasons: (1) My mom has never been a seamstress, like, at all, so what is she going to do with a needle book? And (2) since no one sewed in my house, we wouldn’t have had scraps of fabric lying around, so obviously I either destroyed some existing article of clothing in order to acquire some fabric scraps, or else I made a gift for my mother out of items from the dust rag bag. Either way – delightful gift from me, I'm sure!

Reading the books as an adult you notice new things, too, of course. For example, something I never picked up on as a child was the fact that Ma is a racist killjoy. She hated the Indians with a passion, and evidently didn't like anyone else, either:

[Ma] did not like to see women working in the fields. Only foreigners did that. Ma and her girls were Americans, above doing men's work. But Laura's helping with the hay would solve the problem. She decided, 'Yes, Laura, you may.'
(from The Long Winter)

She was always going on and on about the "put your bonnet back on, Laura," and "keep quiet girls!" and "get in bed now, girls."

She put the lovely white swan's-down hood over Grace's golden hair. A bit of the blue silk lining showed around Grace's face and matched her shining eyes... She was so beautiful and happy, blue and white and gold and alive and laughing, that they could not look at her long enough. But Ma did not want to spoil her with too much attention. So she quieted Grace and laid away the coat and hood in the bedroom. (from By the Shores of Silver Lake)

Party pooper! I don't know. I always remembered Ma as being nicer than that. Maybe I was conflating pretty, kind Karen Grassle from the TV show with the Ma Ingalls in the books. (Not to mention I completely forgot there was a baby named Grace.) Pa, on the other hand, was just as lovely as I remembered - boisterous and friendly and hard-working. Gotta love Pa.

I think we've all heard enough from me on this subject. That makes books 18 - 24 on this year's list.

In conclusion, I'd just like to mention one thing the Little House books did not have, and that's enough Nellie Oleson.

* Quick reads, obviously, as they are children’s books. I considered not counting all of them towards my 50 books challenge total, but since I have a couple of very long ones in my hopper – for example I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe, which is like 6,000 pages long – I am going to count them all. That Wolfe book will take me a month to finish. Wait, what am I saying? I don’t have to explain myself to the internets!

1 comment:

Amyency said...

Ency knows how to make maple syrup candy in the snow. I'll have her send you the recipe.