Longing for Laura’s Little House

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The Ingalls homesite outside of DeSmet, SD

Yesterday, February 7, most people went about their day as usual. Some discussed politics, others avoided it.  Many went to school and work and attended sporting events, meetings, or other things in between. While some families ate their evening meal together, others raced to a game, meeting, or  get-together.  Most of us went to bed in a warm, cozy bed with heat flowing throughout out two-story houses.  Most people probably didn’t note the date or the significance of the year.  But perhaps a few, like myself, actually noticed the social media “trending items,” and found themselves taken back to a place and time in American history that had a profound impact on our lives and brings to mind a nostalgic warm and comforting feeling, one that recalls someone few of us ever met but is as familiar to many as a dear old friend.

Few book or television series have captured the hearts of America like the one that took place in the woods of Wisconsin, then the prairies of Kansas, and later, the plains of Minnesota and Dakota.  As a child, my mother and I spent hours reading together, and I never missed my Monday night date with the young girl I loved as dearly as my closest friends and family.  Yesterday was her 150th birthday, and I have to wonder how she could possibly have aged when, in my mind, she will always be a young, energetic half-pint with braids.  

Much has been learned about Laura Ingalls Wilder since her death.  We know that her family did not live in isolation and were not wholly self-sufficient.  They were often surrounded by other pioneers and townsfolk.  We know that Laura’s family had a grave mistrust of the government and that Laura was an introvert, often hiding away from the public due to her extreme shyness and fear of being around people.  Quite the opposite of her mother, it was Laura’s daughter, Rose, who convinced her mother to write the stories of her life at a time when the family was starving and on the verge of losing what little they had.  I like to think that it was Laura’s pioneering spirit that inspired her to become an author at the age of 65 rather than falling into despair and giving up after a long, hard life fraught with illness, poverty, and, no doubt, despair.  How ironic that it was all of the those attributes of her childhood that endeared her and her family to so many generations of people.  

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My girls and others learning about school in the late 1800s in Laura’s one room schoolhouse

Times have changed, the West was won, women moved beyond the classroom to the boardroom, and families today are often too busy to eat a meal together.  Never mind spending a winter trapped inside their home, with little to eat and a small fire to keep them warm, as a blizzard rages outside of their home on the wide-open prairie with few people around other than each other.  Mothers are no longer tied to their stoves, laundry, and sewing 24 hours a day with no relief.  Fathers no longer have to hunt to put food on the table.  Most children don’t walk to school and then return home to work the farm and read the Bible by candlelight at night.  These are the things that our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents worked so hard to move away from, but I have to wonder…

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Morgan, Rebecca, and Katie doing laundry like Ma at the Ingalls homesite

Had Laura and her sisters not suffered so many illnesses that left childbearing hard to impossible;  had she and Almonzo been able to have a big family; had Rose married and had children…. would their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren appreciate how much we have gained but how much we have lost as the generations have rolled by?   Would they embrace the rat race that so many of us run each day, or would they yearn for the harder yet simpler lives that Laura, Mary, and Carrie had with Pa and Ma and baby, Grace?  Would they have a greater appreciation for how far our nation has come and sadness for how far we’ve slipped behind?

This has been a very mild winter here in the Mid-Atlantic, and I yearn for just one winter like the one that Laura’s family braved during The Long Winter.  I long for just a few days trapped in the house with my girls, perhaps without electricity, without contact with the outside world, without the demands of our normal, every day lives.  How I miss the days of my own childhood when nothing mattered more than the number of lightning bugs we could catch as we ran through the woods and the farm fields surrounding my grandparent’s house.  How I cherish the memories of snuggling with my mother while we read together and later, with my own girls as I read to them.  Perhaps, if Laura were here to celebrate her birthday now, she would marvel at the lives we live today.  Or perhaps, she would long to return to the days when her family had little more than love in their Little House on the Prairie.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017)

The Family that Travels Together…

Explore. dream, discoverVacation planning time is upon us.  Tis the season when families are cementing their summer plans and dreaming about visiting exotic locales.  Growing up, our vacations always consisted of borrowing a friend’s condo at the beach for a week or traveling with my father on business to places like Dover, New Hampshire or Long Island, New York.  We didn’t go far, but we always had fun.  I’ll never forget the time we stayed at a motel outside of Williamsburg.  I still remember thinking that it had to be the grandest hotel in the world with its strawberry shaped pool and vending machines right in our hallway.  In my mind, it was truly a magical vacation that included stops in Colonial Williamsburg and the now extinct pottery factory, a must-see place for all travelers at the time.

When I was about nine, we traveled to New Hampshire where we toured the Budweiser Factory.  What I remember most was the visit to the stables where the famed clydesdales lived.  I can still picture one of those beautiful creatures as it leaned out of its stall to take a carrot from my little hand.  Again, it was magical for that horse-loving girl from the DC vacationsuburbs.  Another time, we spent a week at Bethany Beach with no plans other than to enjoy the sun and the surf.  Of course, it rained all day, every day, all week.  We played a lot of cards and went to the movies at least once.  We left without suntans, but I think we had more fun on that trip than any other trip we ever took as a family.

Ken and I have tried to give our girls plenty of unforgettable vacations.  IMG_2254We’ve done Disney, several times, and even took my parents there when our girls were very young.  My father had no interest in going and complained non-stop leading up to the trip that he had managed to avoid that mousetrap his entire life and couldn’t understand why he had to go now.  Of course, Dad will do anything for Mom, so he went.  About two days into the trip, we were laughing at the girls as they danced along with the Lion King, wearing their matching Alice in Wonderland dresses that I had hand-sewn.  My Dad turned to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “You know, this really is the happiest place on earth.”  I smiled back with the knowledge that it wasn’t Disney World that produced all of that happiness.  It was all of us being there together.  Yes, you know it: magical.

As we begin planning our summer vacation, it makes my heart soar that our three girls, two in high school and one about to graduate from college (next year, deep breaths…) still look forward to taking family trips together every year.  We have been so very blessed to be able to take trips ranging from weekend camping trips, where we huddled in a tent in the pouring down IMG_2258rain, to trips to Europe.  One of our favorite memories was spending the night in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota on the land that once belonged to Charles Ingalls and which Laura wrote about in Little Town on the Prairie.

We’ve all heard it said that you will never look back on life and wish you had spent more time at work, but most people look back and wish they had spent more time with their family.  So I urge you, this summer, to make the time to take a vacation with your family.  It doesn’t have to be grand and exotic; it can even be at home.  It just has to be time that you spend together, playing, walking, exploring, learning.  Don’t sit in the house and watch TV.  Go out, find an adventure, and do it together.  Whether you travel to a faraway land or to a museum an hour away, make it magical.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

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