Nothing makes me want to live a full, honest, hard-working, and heroic life more than reading Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Luke, Rebekah and I have slowly been making our way through the Little House books since last Fall. I needed something that I could do with both kids inside at home. Reading was just the thing. Rebekah was a newborn and loved to have me look at her while I read. Luke was riveted by the stories and played with trains while listening.
At first, I thought that the Little House stories might be too old for him, that he wouldn't be able to sit still for them. Not so. We have often read nearly an hour before either my mouth got too dry to go on or the kids got antsy. Besides, I was really getting tired of going to the library and letting Luke choose some books to take home only to find that they were utter CRAP! (Really, there is no other word for what most children's literature is like today. People always push you to read, just read anything, to your kids. Don't! Read the good stuff! There isn't enough time to waste on crummy literature that teaches kids bad things and deadens their minds to the Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.)
I am preaching to myself there too- even in evaluating what I choose to read as an adult. But enough of that soapbox, back to Laura.
I read the stories like most children, but there is something different about reading them as an adult. As a child, I did not understand what Ma and Pa went through. They lived many years alone, or nearly alone. They roused their family's spirits through a long winter of blizzards that left them nearly starving (and when they were not starving they ate beans, potatoes, and wheat bread!). They made do with whatever they had, or figured out how to invent what they needed. They worked together, raising a family and making a life for themselves in an unknown country. Really, I am in awe.
Here are just a few thoughts going through my head:
1. Ma and Pa knew the value of keeping up morale. They allowed no complaining and used songs or recitation of great poetry/stories/speeches to keep their family going during tough times. (Singing to lessen the frightening, endless blizzards of The Long Winter.)
2. They led by example- working very hard, providing for their children, church and neighbors even while they went without. (Pa gave the church his only $3 to help pay for a bell when he had needed new boots for himself).
3. People don't need much to get an education, but they do need perseverance and the will to do so. (Laura and Mary had one slate between the two of them and learned to read using McGuffey readers and had very few books at home. They memorized many important speeches, ALL of the psalms, etc...) That is more than I can do even now.
4. The Ingalls/Wilders were everyday heores (Almanzo risks his life to go and get wheat for the little prarie town that was starving during The Long Winter. He had plenty of food, but he knew that others would starve without more supplies).
5. I have way too many things and worry way to much about the things that I think I need.
These stories are priceless.