Worst-kept secret: My favorite television show in all of history is Little House on the Prairie. Right this second, as I’m writing, I’m watching the episode called “Richest man in Walnut Grove,” in which Charles loses his job at the mill and has trouble making ends meet. So the whole family pitches in until the crisis passes. In the meantime, Nellie and Willie Oleson taunt Laura by saying her father smells like a horse and can’t get a decent job.
Pa consoles Laura: “Any job a man can do in this world to make his way is a decent job,” he says. “Hard-working folks only smell bad to folks who have nothing better to do than stick their noses in the air.” Then they climb down from the hayloft and go wash up in the creek for dinner. I’m crying right now.
If I could step into a time machine, I’d be Laura Ingalls, helping Pa with the crops and feeding the chickens while Ma cooks up a pot of stew. But not in Minnesota, where Laura Ingalls grew up. Because SNOW.
It seems strange to me how I’m so attracted to this show. I don’t even camp. But I weep through each episode – partly because of the STELLAR ACTING AND SCRIPTWRITING. But mostly, I think, because of the sheer simplicity of life in Walnut Grove. Fishing in the river, picking wild berries, vegetables from the garden – sustainable living! No leaf blowers or standardized tests. No Minecraft or Facebook.
Also, women couldn’t vote, Native Americans were being routinely slaughtered, and anti-depressants hadn’t been invented yet. So it wasn’t all good. But if I could somehow import the plain worthiness of life portrayed by the Little House series – the sense of purpose inherently born into each and every day – damn, I think I would have found my lot in life.
With such a lofty goal in mind, I have planted my umpteenth vegetable garden. Every day it lures me outside to examine the tiny peppers, water the nascent blooms, and corral the reaching branches. I dig my fingers into the soil and beam at the little white strawberry trying to turn pink.
We forget to do homework, urgent emails aren’t opened, last week’s must-read New Yorker sits unread. But each day I look at my garden, and I wrap my arms around my children and kiss their necks. I hug my Hot Firefighter Husband, and I prepare at least some fresh food. I listen to a bird, feel a breeze, and stare up at the very same sky that entranced Laura Ingalls over a century ago. Times change. I really want some things to stay the same.