I’m in bed, flanked on either side by my daughter, 9, and youngest son, 6. “Here she comes, falling down the hill!” Will says, putting his finger on my computer screen where fictional Laura Ingalls runs with her sisters. We’ve been making our way through the entire Little House on the Prairie series (having read the books first). Homesteading, mean kids at school, seeking parental approval, chores. Just like now. Sure, the show reeks of 1970s – Pa’s hairless chest and shaggy ‘do, wagon wheel decor, bonnets and overwrought music. Cornbread and soup in wooden bowls. The TV I watched in the late 70s all took place in other times – Happy Days wad the 50s, Grizzle Adams in the late 1800s, and The Brady Bunch in a time period where plaid bel bottoms were the height of cool.
With Little House, the kids respond the same way I did when I watched, curled up on my parent’s bed back in 1979. Nellie Olson is cruel – and we talk about why people are mean, how they must feel inside to make other people hurt. How making do with what you have is often a good thing – berries become jam, sticks become an improvised game. How Laura doesn’t fit into the mold most girls did, preferring fishing to sewing, baseball to books. How Laura sticks up for Mary. “Mary’s too ladylike to do it for herself,” my daughter says.
Did I wear a bonnet for a period of time as I tried to emulate the show? Yes. And what kid didn’t run down a hill with arms spread like wings, jumping and running? “Here she goes,” Will says as we watch the credits. No matter what hardship has happened – no food, no money for a pencil, death, illness, Nellie Olson trying – and failing – to kill Laura’s spirit – the end is the same. A young girl, smiling outside in the sunshine, ready to take off.
“I love to see her jump,” Will says.
“Me, too,” Julia nods. “There she goes.”