Several years ago I read a travel piece about a family who traveled to the mid-west to have a Little House/ Laura Ingalls vacation complete with an overnight trip in covered wagons. Being a travel junkie, I am constantly reading and bookmarking/clipping out articles that strike my fancy, but this Little House vacation article unlocked some deep seated sentimental urges and plunged me right back into my childhood when I loved the Little House books and the TV show. Right back to a time when my cousins and I feverishly built houses outside, identified ourselves as Ma and Pa and the kids, and played out elaborate tales of survival and family strife.
That Little House travel piece had me itching to read the series with the kids and it was seriously one of the first things I thought about when I knew that we would be leaving Italy and returning to the States. I couldn't wait re-visit those beloved characters and to introduce them to my children. I couldn't wait to share this treasured slice of my American childhood with them. I couldn't wait to climb into the covered wagons for our own family Little House adventure. It was all going to be so gosh darn wonderful. And then I gave the kids a beautifully illustrated copy of Little House in the Big Woods and suddenly my nostalgic dreams quickly came to a startling halt.
At the end of the first bedtime reading session, Noah declared it a horrible book and insisted that I not read any more of the butchering sections to him. He really was dismayed by the amount of animal slaughter that occurred in the just the first few chapters. He declined to be included in the subsequent reading sessions, but Camille and I trudged on in the Big Woods.
Now we are nearly done with the first book in this famous series and I am eagerly anticipating the final page. If Camille wasn't so hooked, I would have stopped many chapters ago, but Little House seems to have cast its' puzzling magic on her just like it did to me so many years ago. I shouldn't call it puzzling magic. I can understand the allure and interest in a time and place that seem so long ago and so far removed from our modern luxiourous existences.
However as an adult, the book has been a depressing disappointment to me and my sentimental Little House fantasies. I had forgotten how much corporal punishment there is. I had forgotten just how scary the Big Woods are with all of the panthers, bears, and swarming bees. I had forgotten or perhaps never really saw how insecure and whiny Laura could be, especially in regards to her hair issues (her ugly brown hair pales in comparison to Mary's golden locks...although, in reality I should thoroughly relate to Laura since I also had hair issues growing up thanks to my sister's curls). I can re-frame all of those things in the context of history, but what I can't get over is how monotonous it is to read.
Yes, the every day details can at times be interesting, but why does it have to be written so blandly? Instead of crafting a richly, textured tapestry of daily life, Ingalls has a roughly hewn structure that lacks eloquence and enchantment. Her words are clunky and elementary. And to put it bluntly, it is boring. Even with all of the inherent drama and impending danger of living in such an isolated setting, I still find myself yawning and wishing it would just end. I think I'll get the audio books for Camille, but I just can't bring myself to read any more of the series.
Sadly, it turns out that returning home isn't always easy, even if it is a fictional house in the woods. We are planning to read the Wizard of Oz soon so it will be interesting to see if that famous trip home will be more satisfying. I hope so.