Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday (Special Tuesday Edition): Little House In The Ozarks

In March of my freshman year of high school, I moved from a school in Pennsylvania to one in New Hampshire. Shortly after arriving, I was assigned a speech in English class. It's hard to imagine anything I wanted to do less than give that speech, in front of a room full of total strangers--in addition to being new in school, I was pathologically shy and would've much preferred hiding at the back of the class until the school year was over.

I channeled that anxiety and chose for my topic Laura Ingalls Wilder and the parallels I saw between her childhood and mine: we both moved around a lot, though admittedly, Laura got the rawer end of the deal since her moving involved covered wagons and unsettled territories and occasionally living in a dugout in a hillside. I had been a Laura fan from way back--I read all the Little House books the summer between fourth and fifth grade and read them all again between sixth and seventh grade. Books in general, but these books in particular, were comfortingly familiar when everything else was up in the air. I searched out other books that would let me know what happened to Laura after the end of the last book in my boxed Little House collection, The First Four Years--which was an incomplete manuscript when Laura died in 1957. I found West From Home, which was a collection of letters Laura wrote home to her husband Almanzo while visiting her daughter Rose in 1915 and On The Way Home, which was the diary of the Wilder's trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri where they would live for the rest of their lives.

Fast forward a few years to the early '90s, I'm working in a small local bookstore (still the best job I ever had and I miss it) and I open a box of new books to find Little House In The Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings. Needless to say, that copy never made it to the shelf. That's one thing I don't miss about working at the bookstore--even with my 25% employee discount I was spending entirely too much on books.

The book is a collection of short nonfiction pieces that ran in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1925. There are glimpses into Laura's life and time--she was a farm wife in a small Missouri community--but the thing that is endlessly fascinating to me is how much her concerns still resonate almost a hundred years later. She talks often and openly about her relationships with her family and friends, about her place in town and in the world at large. It's a little scary, but somehow also comforting that she and her contemporaries faced so many of the same issues that my friends and I face now. Scary because if these amazing women a hundred years ago didn't have it figured out what are the odds that I'll be figuring it all out anytime soon? And comforting because, clearly, they survived not figuring it all out.

I still keep this book next to my bed and dip into it when whatever I'm currently reading isn't holding my attention. The pieces are all short--the longest only a few pages--and can be read in any order or in no order at all. Seems each time I pick it up, I find something that somehow slipped my attention before. For example, this weekend, I found this quote:

Why should we need extra time to enjoy ourselves? If we expect to enjoy our life, we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at stated intervals when we can get time or when we have nothing else to do.It may well be that it is not our work that is so hard for us as the dread of it and our often expressed hatred of it. Perhaps it is our spirit and attitude toward life, and its conditions that are giving us trouble instead of a shortage of time. Surely the days and nights are as long as they ever were.*

I had spent the weekend running around trying to do too much and whining (mostly in my own sad, little head but out loud some, too) about how I barely have time to catch my breath let alone enjoy a moment's peace and something definitely needs to change. Yeah, um, maybe what needs to change is my approach--maybe if I'd spent a little less time and energy whining, I'd have had more of both left for the fun stuff. Ah, Laura to the rescue again. And I swear when I read those words, it was like Laura herself was speaking them directly in my ear.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Connection.

*From "The Man of the Place," page 65.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. I am always getting in discussion with the 16 yr old when she keeps complaining how fast time is flying that how fast time goes is a perception or attitude.

    She was complaining that she only had 8 weeks to complete an online chemistry summer course. After a few moments I mentioned that her birthday was 8 weeks ago and she replied "That was such a long time ago." It took her a moment to realize what she had just said.