Monday, May 21, 2012

Heldts on the prairie

Our family loves all things Little House on the Prairie.

This is an understatement.

Last summer we read through Little House in the Big Woods together, and my eldest (seven years old at the time) went on to read in the series--independently--by fall.

It is not uncommon for something to happen where my kids shout, "That's just like what happened to Laura!"

And several months ago we introduced them to the old television series, Michael Landon and all.  They would watch and watch, falling more and more in love with this pioneer family.  I can still remember a time when my dad was in town visiting, and Kevin and I returned home from somewhere to find them all gathered around the TV, my father teary-eyed and my kids eager to tell me of the things that had happened in the five episodes episode they had watched.

So when we made our recent roadtrip to Wisconsin, there was just no getting around the fact that we needed to make a slight detour in Minnesota--to take the kids to Plum Creek.   You know, that Plum Creek, where the Ingalls family made their home in a dugout house for several years, where Pa farmed the land and where Laura and Mary played and got into trouble.

Our kids were ecstatic.  I mean really, really ecstatic.  You'd have thought we were taking them to Disneyland.  And yes that is my daughter, wearing the prairie clothes some dear friends had gifted her, sitting in the back of that wagon.

Kaitlyn got to choose an apron and bonnet at the Little House on the Prairie gift shop in Walnut Grove (which was a little like Disneyland--to my kids, anyway!)  That is Plum Creek in the background there.  You can see the precise spot where the dugout house was (though it has long since caved in on itself.)

The kids and I, spreading out over (what used to be) Charles Ingalls' farmland.  It was so, so beautiful.

I have to confess that I kind of loved the experience myself.  I read the books--and watched reruns of the television show--as a child, and it was such a surreal experience to actually see where they lived and farmed and played.  It struck me too that this family has become a cultural icon in spite of the fact that they were, well, normal.  In merely telling her family's story--which was surely not unlike the stories of countless other families in her day--Laura Ingalls Wilder managed to captivate and inspire generations of children and adults alike.

In fact, I'm sure this makes me the geekiest of all geeks (and quite possibly the most stereotypical of all homeschool moms, sans jumper), but I've actually been inspired to learn more about this prolific author and her life, and recently requested several biographies about her from the library.  The idea of sharing your story, no matter how seemingly mundane, and impacting the world for good is something that inspires me.  It makes me think.  And it makes me want to keep writing.

So if you ever have the chance to visit any of the historical places related to the Ingalls or Wilder families, I highly encourage you to do so.  Not only are rural Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri truly lovely places, it's also a great way to connect your children to the past, and remind them that now is not all there is--a lesson desperately needed in our present cultural climate.

Did I mention that we love Little House on the Prairie?


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