Snow in the Backwoods

Dear Erin,

Charles doesn’t seem too cut up about the arcade, all things considered. But then again, he managed to get through the video in the childbirth class last night without seeming very stressed out – until afterward. So I might just be oblivious.

Did Munchkin have fun in the snow? It looked like it was deep enough to make a decent snow angel, although any Olafs might have turned out a bit small. I remember a snowman we made on the side of the road once. Was it on the way to New Hampshire for Christmas one year? He was pretty small and not very impressive, and the only detail I really remember is that he had plenty of green hair made out of evergreen branches, but we had a lot of fun.

This talk of snow makes me think of the Little House on the Prairie books, which Charles and I are reading right now. Not being terribly interested in narrative realism as a child, I had only ever read the first one – Little House in the Big Woods – and my husband considered that a blind spot that needed to be rectified. So when we were at a certain large bookstore a couple weeks ago, we bought what we considered the necessary beginnings of a child’s library, which included a collector’s edition of five of the Little House books bound as one.

I’ve been reading them out loud to him, a couple chapters each night. Two days ago, we finished Little House in the Big Woods, and last night we started on Farmer Boy. And snow figures prominently in both, so far. Snow like I can’t imagine having to live with on a regular basis. I think I would just cry from the cold. In reading these books, I’m that much more convinced of my probable inability to live anywhere with a real winter. (So congratulations to you, Florida girl! You’re doing better than I could, and you have been for years.)

Other things that have struck me during this reading? It is hard to tell, since the story is told from a child’s perspective, but Ingalls Wilder’s family seems incredibly isolated. Her parents are painted as completely content, yet I wonder about their mental health. I mean, on the one hand, the pioneer life is quite romantic, what with the wolves literally at the door and your life depending on your wits and wisdom every day. On the other hand, how did her mother not get depressed, basically alone all day every day? Why could her father apparently not settle down and be content but had to keep moving every few years? What possessed them – in the midst of the Victorian age – to live a life wherein nearly every tool had to be jerry-rigged out of local materials? Most of their contemporaries, even on the frontiers that were disappearing, seemed to take every opportunity to buy pre-made goods.

Still, from a child’s perspective, for a child audience, the romance and the exoticism of a frontier life in bygone days is what stands out. It’s strange that the book was too realistic for me when I was little, and now it’s not realistic enough. Oh well; the hazards of reading as an adult without nostalgia are impossible to escape sometimes.

I did laugh when I heard that Ingalls Wilder and her husband ended up in the Panhandle briefly during their own adulthood. As in, I felt superior – with no real reason, I admit. The tough pioneers apparently couldn’t handle the crackers, not to mention the heat. So maybe I would freeze solid during their winter, but they melted during our summer, and our own dirt scratch farmers apparently drove them crazy. Ah, it makes me proud to be a Floridian.

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2 thoughts on “Snow in the Backwoods

  1. Kristen-I wondered at the beginning of your post if you knew of the Wilders short sojurn in FL. Ironic that they couldn’t take the heat, the bugs, the scrub palmettos, the torrential rain…then again think of life in the wilds of FL before AC & hermetically sealed houses! I’m wondering how well we “advanced” humans would survive pioneer life in hot or cold!

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