Recently, I bequeathed one of my childhood treasures to my eight year-old daughter – my box set of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My daughter Eliza had to first prove herself worthy; I refused to pass it on to her until she had finished reading both Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.
Little House in the Big Woods is the first “real” book that I can recall reading. My grandmother Lillian started off reading it to me, but somehow, somewhere around the family goes to the “sugaring off”, I found myself reading it to her instead. For the rest of my childhood, I read all the books in this pale yellow box again and again.
Even as a child, I picked up on the fact that Ma’s attitude towards Native Americans was racist and cruel. It seemed wrong to me that Laura’s only occupational choices were schoolteacher or wife. My daughter and I have been talking about these things as well. It is a part of our history that is better to acknowledge than to ignore. But my daughter likes the books because they include so many details about life in a very different time. The books aren’t about heroes, but about ordinary people. Laura and Mary, Carrie and Grace, Ma and Pa, even Jack the dog are vividly alive for her. Maybe next summer we will have to take a mother-daughter field trip to Walnut Grove, MN to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.
The real treasure for me has been watching her discover the same joy in reading these books that I experienced as a child. Maybe one day, she will pass this treasure on to her own children.
This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure.
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