Friday, April 20, 2012

On the Move, With the Ingalls on My Mind

If I was a pioneer crossing the trail, I would surely be one of those cluttering the landscape with my too-many possessions I'd be forced to dispose of along the way. Moving day occurred in our household on April 16, 2012, but with so many possessions to bring to our new "homestead" moving day will be more like moving month. But I've already slept in our lavender colored bedroom, sat in the start of my Southwestern themed library/office, even changed my address for my Vegetarian Times subscription (priorities!), had morning coffee in a royal blue mug on my lady bug table cloth overlooking the patio and garden, and lied on the bed in our prairie-inspired guest bedroom complete with a now cherished calico quilted wall hanging found at an estate sale. That room was my idea of course. I don't think Steve would have dreamt up a Laura Ingalls Wilder-inspired guest bedroom. I kept telling him on our Southwest trip he was "my Almanzo" to which he kept saying, "Who?"

Thank goodness for Wendy McClure for getting me hooked on these Little House books after penning The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. While I'm sad I did not read the series as a child even though I was an avid fan of the show, reading them as an adult has been just as pleasurable. I've been thinking a lot about the Ingalls family, not just because I recently read Laura Ingalls Wilder's marvelous By the Shores of Silver Lake, which documents their journey to South Dakota, but because the Ingalls family moved so often in their lifetime and as Laura has said the Little House books appeal is that they are about "home, that dream of home we all share."

I've moved very little and across few frontiers in comparison. No childhood displacements and having commuted to my local college, I moved to my first apartment in my early twenties, then moved to another apartment around 30 (both times living alone), then in with Steve (and his roommate! - why I've been extremely eager to move out for privacy and more than one bathroom!) in September when my lease was up until we could find another two family. What was supposed to be a very temporary situation was drawn out for months by the bank. Roommate (thankfully) is staying put at the old homestead, and we have a nice couple living above us and Steve and I have privacy at last with the first floor all to ourselves.

Wherever she went, Ma took out her coveted china shepherdess. You can buy your own china shepherdess on the online gift shop of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society (and even a Charlotte doll!) You can also get a tin cup just like they got on Christmas from the Ingalls Homestead. I can spend (waste?) as much time on these Little House gift sites as I do looking up retro-inspired goods on the Vermont Country Store or looking up key words like, "butterfly," "calico" or "birds" on I've never even purchased anything, I'm just fascinated by beautiful things that make a house a home. I like things that make it all "snug" and "cozy" like Laura always described.

It got me to thinking what is my china shepherdess, and I'm not sure that I have one. I definitely have a host of cherished items: books, wardrobe (much loved vintage), artwork, tea things. I think the calico wall hanging will be a favorite item. Do you have your own version of a china shepherdess?

Laura felt unsettled in the town and longed for the wide open prairie fields. I feel frequently unsettled by the crowded roads in New Jersey, the crowds of people in New York City and the pace of modern life. I do share a bit of Pa's and Laura's urge to wander. Never having lived outside of New Jersey, I long for the Western frontiers. I've talked to Steve about relocating eventually elsewhere (we've talked about upstate New York, Vermont and even somewhere in the West). Ma didn't want to go further west in the books because she wanted a formal school (although with Ma being teacher I always wondered why home schooling wasn't an option). We worry about schools too when the time comes to start a family. I could write a lengthy blog post (possibly an entire blog!) about things I never learned in my public school education.

I think of how different Laura's worries are than mine. She sure never had to ponder things like, when they married, did she or Almanzo have the better healthcare plan? Would she be able to afford to stay home with baby Rose?

Pa enjoyed many aspect of modernizing life, like how train travel could transport the family in one morning what would take a week by wagon. I love how we can communicate across a medium the Ingalls could have never dreamed of, but also want to take my time admiring my prairie, even if that's our humble backyard that looks out into woods. With all the unsettledness of the year, my blog has taken on a slower pace, but I'm enjoying being online less. I will definitely continue blogging, but I'll be puttering around in the garden, cooking more, writing letters (I'm the worst pen pal ever, sorry you know who!) and spending time with Laura and other great writers like her.

"The dishes were done. Laura carried the dishpan some distance from the back door and flung waste water over the grass where tomorrow's sun would dry it. The first stars were pricking through the pale sky. A few lights twinkled yellow in the little town, but the whole great plain of the earth was shadowy. There was hardly a wind, but the air moved and whispered to itself in the grasses. Laura almost knew what it said. Lonely and wild and eternal were land and water and sky and the air blowing."

Lonely and wild and eternal a life I often long for.


  1. When you're ready, investigate homeschooling. You don't have to worry about the schools wherever you go, because you can homeschool from anywhere---really all you need is an internet connection, books, toys, art supplies, fresh air, a forest to play in or a beach or a get my drift. ;-) My son (10) and I love it! And my version of Ma's china shepherdess is the few framed photos of my son as a baby which I put out first wherever we move, even if it's only temporary. (We've had apartments for 4 or 5 months at a time while between houses.) Right now, we know the place we moved to (also earlier this month) is just temporary. I can't wait to really settle down in our next house, hopefully next year. Best of luck to you in your new place!

  2. Thanks Lilypad, and that's very reassuring! I always think of the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy starts reading everything she can and becomes obsessed with gaining knowledge before the baby arrives. She asks Ricky how will he answer when their child asks why the sky is blue, and he has no idea (a fact I need to look up myself)! We are very much leaning toward home schooling when the time comes. Steve's sister in Iowa has home schooled her three young daughters.

    Good luck with your move as well! I'm sure it will be snug and cozy too! Thinking of your photos, I realize I need to get prints of my many digital photos. I so miss photo albums and picture frames. Even this Easter I was looking for a photo with me, my sister and my mom with a stuffed Easter bunny and basket.

  3. Good luck and congrats on your new home!

  4. Thanks so much Ted! I'm so happy to live next to a wooded area. Our neighbor is a big bird lover and had many feeders. I enjoyed sipping coffee and watching all the visitors enjoying their Sunday brunch as much as I did my own.

  5. I read the books as adult too and loved them! The last book I read was actually a reprint of her newspaper articles, most about her adult life. Loved, loved, loved it. She gives very good advice that's applicable even to this day.

    I long for a simpler life without a commute and the landscapes of my childhood--the prairie and the Ozarks. I think that plays into my love of her books. It's about home. I love Southern California in many ways, but it doesn't always feel like home. (Congrats on the new homestead, btw!)

  6. Thank you!

    I look forward to reading all the books in the series. I'm reading them over time because I want to savor them.

    New Jersey is all I have known, but I was talking to a good friend recently who has also fallen in love with the West (she's been out there more times than I and to more places) and actually says she has a feeling of homesickness when she visits, even though she was raised and still lives in our area in the East. I completely understood what she meant after my Southwest trip. The commute here is definitely soul-sucking! Good thing for my books on those lines.