I had high hopes of finishing The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder this past weekend, but then I always overthink things. I like to imagine myself all comfy in my rocking chair with something warm close at hand to sip while reading. I even had a little free time on Saturday and was all ready to read, but the week before had been a particularly busy one . . . so I sat down with my stack of books and then promptly started dozing off. Not a reflection on my reading choices, I must hasten to add, but just too comfortable and relaxed. So my reading time went bust. I read a few pages of my book and now will get back to it in earnest this week. If nothing else I hope to finish by Friday so I can pick up the next book (I still have high hopes of reading the last three Little House books before the end of the year).
I was sure I had read the book when I was young, but then so much of it seemed new to me. Now I am recognizing bits, but no matter, either way I am enjoying it immensely. Well, enjoying it as much as a story about a blizzard-y winter on the Dakota Plains can be enjoyed. It makes me thankful that I can indeed sit inside and lounge on my rocker with something hot to drink and know if I look up there are no nails poking through my ceiling fuzzy with frost. Oh, and I don't need to break a layer of ice that has formed over a cup of water that might be close by. I have decided I would be a complete wimp if I had to endure a winter like the one the Ingalls family is dealing with.
Since this is the book that is my constant companion at the moment, I thought I would share a few teasers (hopefully you won't get too tired or bored by hearing about the Ingalls family as I read my way through the last books). I've alternately been shuddering (from cold) and chuckling from the things Laura and Mary say. First the shudder:
"The cold and the dark had come again. The nails in the roof were white with frost, the windowpanes were gray. Scraping a peephole only showed the blank, whirling whiteness against the side of the glass. The stout house quivered and shook; the wind roared and howled. Ma kept the rag rugs tightly against the bottom of the doors, and the cold came crawling in."
"It was hard to be cheerful. Morning and afternoon, holding the clothesline, Pa went to the stable to feed the horses, the cow, and the heifer. He had to be sparing of the hay. He came in so cold that he could hardly get warm. Sitting before the oven, he took Grace on his knee and hugged Carrie so close to him, and he told them stories of bears and panthers that he used to tell Mary and Laura. Then in the evening he took his fiddle and played the merry tunes."
Hmm. Cheerful? I would be downright cranky personally. What a different world it was--no roads, so Pa has to struggle to dig the horses out when they fall into drifts, and a train that cannot pass with the tracks covered. No going to the store for supplies and here it is almost Christmas and the celebration is promising to be a very lean one (keeping in mind all the previous holidays filled with all sorts of delicious foods and little gifts). I know the book is set firmly in the period in which it was written and stories like this for children had some piece of advice or a guiding hand on how to live life well, but this made me chuckle. I am more like Laura. Mary is a great character, but she is just too Good sometimes. Remember those frosty nails . . . Ma has just told the girls that Christmas might be a quiet one and perhaps they should save the bundle of magazines that were brought back after Pa fetched the mail. Some little treat to look forward to on Christmas day.
"After a moment Mary said, 'I think it is a good idea. It will help us learn self-denial'."
"'I don't want to,' Laura said."
"'Nobody does,' said Mary, 'But it's good for us'."
"Sometimes Laura did not even want to be good."
How often do you come across a fifteen-year-old (or thereabouts) like Mary who is into learning self-denial? At least Laura knows her limitations. That passage made me chuckle. I love these stories, but yes, lots of little guidances for children on how to live good lives. And what do I remember/take away from the stories? I vividly remembered the maple syrup harvests and making maple sugar snow! And that green pumpkin pie will remain fresh in my mind for some time to come as well. Fingers crossed for the girls that Santa does indeed make his way to their homestead despite the snow.