When I was a little girl, I loved The Little House on the Prairie. Both the book series, which I read about nine million times (though mostly the first two books), and the TV series, which came out when I was exactly the target age for it. Melissa Gilbert, the actress who played Laura Ingalls, and I are roughly the same age. I wasn’t much interested in Laura’s crush on Almanzo Wilder. I was more interested in how she could possibly survive without the things I had.
I was the kind of dreamy kid who could spend hours in the back yard all by myself playing ‘pretend’ and most likely talking to myself out loud. One of my favorite games was imagining what would happen if I could somehow bring Laura into my time and show her around. I pointed up in the sky and showed her airplanes and explained how normal it was for people to strap themselves into a giant metal tube and fly across the country. I let her sit on the vinyl seats in the back of the station wagon and be amazed that we didn’t need any horses and could roll down the windows with a crank. She was impressed – she thought I was the luckiest girl in the world for living in such modern times.
I was afraid she wouldn’t like me, though. Laura was a much better, purer person than I was. I remember one time she thought about slapping her sister, Mary, and felt horrible about even having the thought. Given the number of times I might have actually hit my sister in the years I only had only one digit in my age, I knew she’d think I was just mean and heartless. I thought about Laura when I was mad because I didn’t get to drink out of my favorite cup – I remembered the scene where she and her sister Mary get their OWN tin cup to SHARE and they were excited about it. Whoa. It kinda put my fights over the collector’s glass with Ronald McDonald on it (painted with lead paint, no doubt) in perspective.
I thought about her today. My husband is now on day ten of his “replacing the steps to the deck” project. There are four steps. They have been out of commission for months. I thought of Laura’s Pa cutting down trees and hauling them over to the homestead site without the benefit of a combustion engine to build their Little House on the Prairie. I think it took Charles Ingalls less time to build an entire house, albeit a tiny, drafty one, than it has taken Mike to rebuild the stairs. And Charles didn’t have a Home Depot or a Lowes. Or an Ace Hardware. Or even a Sears. For that matter, he had to shoot dinner in between ax strokes and rigging pulleys to get the logs high enough to make a roof.
What soft people we have become. My kids get twitchy when they don’t have access to Wi-Fi. Even if I managed to kill a wabbit, I wouldn’t know exactly what to do in order to turn it into food. I’m irritated at the moment because my dishwasher is broken, and I have to wash my dishes BY HAND with the hot and cold running water that just comes out of my spigot on demand. My husband, who is a fairly competent carpenter and handyman (not to be confused with an efficient one), needs (or so he claims) about four different power drills and three chainsaws, and an entire garage full of other tools. All this so he can spend two weeks replacing four plain, unfinished wooden steps. We’d die from exposure if he had to build us a warm house before winter set in while I was hand sewing clothes and knitting socks from wool I got directly from the neighbor’s sheep and hauling up water from a creek one gallon at a time.
My daughter in particular, though she loves dystopian fiction where people survive all kinds of poverty, deprivation, and people-trying-to-kill-them, would not likely survive the first five minutes if she went to visit Laura Ingalls in her time. My daughter’s mind would be thinking all of the necessities of life that she would never get on the prairie. Wi-fi, Netflix, and Starbucks would be running through her mind faster than she could actually run. Likely, she would die of grief.
She’s not alone. We live in a time where independent children are the ones who pour processed bowls of cereal out of a box for themselves and then leave the bowl in the sink for the dish fairy to contend with later.
And I’ll tell you this – thank goodness for that. There is no shame in poverty or deprivation, but there is no essential virtue in it either. I unapologetically love my creature comforts. I’m sorry that everyone doesn’t have them, but that doesn’t make me want to give them up. I have great affection for my central heating and my air conditioning and my running water and my soft supportive bed made out of synthetic fibers. I like not having any idea what part of a cow the ‘sirloin’ is and the delusion that butter is naturally formed into quarter pound sticks wrapped in waxed paper without effort on anyone’s part.
Yup. Laura can come visit me. But I’m not going to visit her.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.