The princess laughed and clapped her hands in delight. “A story!” she exclaimed. “And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift.” (from Clever Jack Takes The Cake by Candace Fleming)
Why do I love the Little House books? January 24, 2012
On the smooth, cream-colored page, in Ma’s fine handwriting, Laura read:
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where
Your loving mother
C L Ingalls
(from Little Town On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
I received a comment a week or so ago asking why I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books so much? I assume this question is mostly in response to the volume of quotes I have used from the Little House series in the last year. Typically, on this blog, you will see groups of quotes from whatever I’m reading at the time. So, in re-reading the series last year, I found many notable quotes and used them during that time. But the question is still an interesting one. Why do any of us love the books we end up loving? I thought about it for a while and I have some answers for this particular series.
First, I love them because my Mumsie gave me the boxed set for my eighth birthday. That was my favorite-ever birthday party: my mom and aunts set up little stations all through our house for my friends and me. We had a make-up station, hair station, and dress up station. She had my great-grandmothers beautiful old dresses (from the days when ladies had many occasions to dress to the nines) shortened for us to play in. We had the dresses, the gloves, the hair-spray smell, the ridiculousness of make-up on eight-year-old faces. Then we had petite fores and punch and other fancy things on my mother’s good china. There was a lace table-cloth on the table. I remember I had asked for a basketball for that birthday because my PE Teacher scolded that I needed lots of practice at home (I couldn’t dare tell her that in our two-sister home there were no basketballs to practice with and DON’T get me started on the PE methods in public education). I did get a basketball–just what I asked for and didn’t want. But I also got the boxed set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I didn’t ask for them. I didn’t even know they existed. I had never heard of the television show based on them, we had not yet read one of them in school, but Mumsie told me she loved them when she was growing up. “Growing up.” That’s how she said it. Not, “I loved them when I was a little girl,” but “I loved them when I was growing up.” It made me feel like she thought I was growing up.
I read them straight through. In class later that year we read The Long Winter and I felt great that I had my own copy at home, so much better than the textbook version. By The Shores of Silver Lake was the first book that ever made me cry, when Laura became Mary’s eyes in a world that had gone dark, when she learned to sacrifice her own selfish desires to work toward sending Mary to college. For years after that, if I needed a good cry and couldn’t get the tears to come, I would pull Silver Lake down from the shelf and read a few chapters about Mary’s blindness. Silly, I know, but true. So I love the books for the memories first. Like my grandmother, I loved them when I was growing up.
And, I love them as a grown-up for a new set of reasons. I love them because they offer a gentle wisdom and a simple lifestyle in a crazy, commercial, speedy world. They take me back to the basics. They chastise me for always taking the easy way or the convenient way. They remind me to live well within my means, to not chase after everything my friends and neighbors have but to live with contentment. The Ingalls and Wilder families show beautiful examples of courage under pressure, grace in the face of tragedy, acceptance of hardships, determination, pluck, relationships, and humor. Sometimes I can hardly believe what they went through. I love the history of this country told through the eyes of a girl growing up in it. I love the romance between Charles and Caroline Ingalls and the romance between Laura and Almonzo Wilder.
In re-reading the series as an adult, I have been challenged to do things for myself that I might not have a few years ago. I am sewing my baby girl’s bedding and some other things for her nursery. I am venturing in to the world of cloth diapers (something I seriously thought was insane a couple of years ago when I had my son). I am making my own household products if I can’t find them at the rock bottom price I want to pay: laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, etc. I make gifts for people I love instead of shopping around to buy them something. I feel like I’m living more abundantly and counting my blessings more readily. When something is hard for me, I think how easy my modern life is compared to the pioneer life and I am grateful.
I’m grateful that I don’t have to depend on the weather for the very food to feed my family. I’m grateful to be having babies in the twenty-first century when my 8lb 4oz breech baby could be delivered by c-section safely, when I can get a glimpse of my daughter in an ultrasound video to know she’s growing well. I’m grateful for electricity and technology, for community and all the books I want.
I love the Little House books because they remind me of growing up, because they challenge me as a grown-up to live more simply, to do without what I don’t need and to appreciate the luxuries of living when i do, and because they’re just flat good books that have stood the test of time.
Even if September 1, 2011
He would be brave for the princess.
Even if (reader, could it be true?) there was no such thing as happily ever after. (from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo)
I have a confession that may horrify some of you. I don’t always trust a book all the way to the end. You see, I absolutely require happy endings in books. And movies. I do not read books to end up feeling depressed and helpless. So, if a book seems to be heading down a pretty depressing path, I just ask my husband to read the final chapter for me and tell me if it has a happy ending or not. If it doesn’t end well, I don’t finish it no matter how compelling it is.
It’s a lesson I learned the hard way from The House of Sand and Fog and other incredibly depressing reads. I will also leave the theater if a movie is not what I thought. I don’t mind if a movie makes me cry, or if it has tragedy within it. But it absolutely must end on an uplifting note. I did not enjoy The Dark Knight (I know, you’re all unsubscribing from the blog as you read that, but I’m sorry!). I left the theater about half way through I Am Legend.
Anyway, I think the reason for this happy ending rule of mine is that I started to notice in my late teens and early twenties that sometimes real life stories don’t turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes a romance ends badly or a job goes horribly wrong or a pregnancy ends in miscarriage. Sometimes it all works out so much better than you could ever have imagined–better than authors could write. But there’s no way to know that for sure when it’s real.
In real life, you have to be brave in the midst of trials even though you don’t know how that trial will end. (I am not talking about the end of life itself, of course. As a Christian, I believe that is not the end at all. I’m talking about the things we go through in life.)
So I just figure, that I need to save up my stores of bravery for real life. There’s no way I’m wasting it on fiction that doesn’t reward it in the end. No way.
To stay alive July 19, 2010
Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. (from Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez)
I really do find that I cannot stand to go a day without having something to read. If I am between books and can’t think of what I want to read next, or haven’t been by the library to get something, I will pick up something I’ve read dozens of times and just read that. Is it just me? I have actually forgotten meals many times before and not noticed. But I have never forgotten to read…something…anything. Well, not anything. There are certain genres I absolutely refuse to pick up, others I just can’t see myself enduring, and some I tire of by the sixth chapter. But good children’s books–these I love forever. I like them for always. As long as I’m living my babies they’ll be. (Did I just reallysay that?) I am always amazed at the number of children’s books my mom can buy for pocket change at garage sales. I understand that their kids are grown, but I just can’t imagine selling my children’s books!!! They have much to offer to adults.
After your kids go to bed, if you are between books of your own, just pick up one of theirs…maybe Charlotte’s Web or Anne of Green Gables or Where The Wild Things Are…and read it. Just for you. You may find you need that story more than food to stay alive. Do you know what I mean by “alive?”
A Power January 13, 2010
Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped. (from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Moral: if you don’t read children’s books, you risk winding up a pathetic fragmented soul. I’m just saying. That’s what happened to Voldemort.
For the Stories September 14, 2009
“Do you know,” Peter asked, “why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” (from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)
I realized a while back that I’ve never actually read Peter Pan. I loved the Mary Martin movie/play when I was a little girl and I’ve found some Peter Pan quotes in my search for good quotes. But, I confess, I had never read the book. So I went to the public library and there found a beautiful 100th Anniversary Edition illustrated by Michael Hague and published by Henry Holt and Co. (After I publish this post, I am heading over to Amazon.com to add the book to my wish list–the illustrations are truly lovely.)
I’ve been reading it to Benjamin for the past couple of evenings and have found so many worthwhile quotes that I’ve had to re-read the same chapters with a pen and a sheet of paper after he goes to sleep. Great book. Wonderful read-aloud, charming read-alone, exceeding all expectations.
I expected to find the themes of adventure and courage, magic and play. But I did not expect to find one of my very favorite things of all–the love of story. Peter and the Lost Boys crave stories like all children and all adults who have grown up in the necessaries but not the essentials. Read it. I know you’ll love it.
Important Here September 9, 2009
“Everybody walks in the street, more or less straight down the middle, and if a car comes while somebody’s having a good conversation or telling a good story, the car has to wait till the story finishes before people will move out of the way. Stories are important here, and cars aren’t.” (from The Most Beautiful Place In The World by Ann Cameron)
Last school year I had the privelege of working part of every day in my Aunt Connie Garrett’s classroom. She was a first-grade-teacher-extraordinaire and I feel like I learned so much in her room. One of my favorite things that she often told her kids is “Everybody has a story.” It’s a profound thought that can change depending on where the emphasis lies. For instance, if a child was making an excuse for unfinished homework, she could say, “Everybody has a story.” In other words, there’s no excuse for not doing your best when all of the other people who could have used excuses chose instead to do their best. But if she needed to explain the feelings of one child to another child or teacher, she could say, “Everybody has a story.” In other words, try to put yourself in his shoes.
Nobody wants to hear the tired old story of why you missed class (again!) or cheated your way through something you could have and should have done honestly (whether it’s school, work, or marriage). But what if we started creating environments in which people could feel confident that their stories are important? The stories of how they overcame, fell in love, reached their goals, survived their grief. What if we took the time to listen? We might learn something about empathy. If we start to see things through another’s point of view, we might finally learn what it is to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Our prayers for them might be deeper and more genuine, our words more sincere. This is one thing I love about reading my friends’ blogs–the chance to hear their stories, to catch a glimpse of what’s happening in their lives.
Next time you ask someone casually, “How are things?” try listening to her answer. Try putting off the “important” things you have on the agenda of your mind and really listen. Say with your attitude, “Stories are important here.”