One of the best parts about being a mom, for me, is getting to share all the books I loved when I was little with my girls. For a long time now, it's been picture books, but with Lucy we've been reading chapter books lately. I'm trying to find ones that are both easy enough yet challenging and interesting for her. I pulled down my "Little House" series not so long ago. I think she's too young for these yet, but I made a marvelous discovery on amazon. There is a series called "My First Little House" books--and they're lovely picture books with little vignettes lifted from the novels. She has taken to these like a duck to water. Each one starts out the same way, "Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Laura who lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She lived with her Pa, her Ma, her big sister Mary, her baby sister Carrie, and their good old bulldog, Jack." Lucy always adds now, "And their cat, Black Susan!" They're simple, sweet stories about their winter or summer days, Laura's 5th birthday, a dance at Grandpa's house, and--the latest one we checked out at the library--Christmas.
I yearn, YEARN for a Christmas like that! Here's what the children got in their stockings--a stick of peppermint candy and a pair of mittens. And they were speechless with delight! It's September, and if I think about Christmas I already start to hyperventilate because of the sheer volume of stuff that will make its way into our house and I'll have to figure out what to do with it. How much better just to have one or two things, a big meal, and time spent with family. But I digress.
The other day we were playing over at my parents' house, and my mom had a hair appointment. Lucy sat at the desk and carefully wrote two "notes." "What do your notes say?" I asked. "This one says 'I love you.' And this one says 'I hope you have a good haircut, Manga.'" Then she got wrapping paper out of "her" desk drawer and wrapped each note carefully and drew a bow on each. Then she hid them under the desk. Then she took off her sock and hung it on the doorknob to the patio. She said, "Mom, I'm making Christmas for Manga! There are her presents that I hid and I hung up her stocking!" I said, "Let's put some candy in her stocking; I know where there is some!" So, we put a couple of Sparkle peppermints in the sock and hung it back up. She was so excited when my mom came in--to show her the "Christmas" she had made for her.
That night, after I had bathed both girls and put them in their pajamas, I took them on a walk in the bike buggy/jogger stroller, which is now christened the wagon. I tucked blankets around them, just like Pa did for his girls, and we strolled around the neighborhood. Lucy told our neighbor that she was Laura, Elaine was baby Carrie, her daddy was Pa, I was Ma, Rabbie is the good old bulldog Jack, and Elaine's indeterminate stuffed toy (dog? rabbit?) is their cat, Black Susan.
So, the books are a hit. I'm excited to read the real novels with her in a year or so too, and also to maybe try out some of the activities and recipes, like molasses syrup candy that you pour into pans of snow. Laura Ingalls wrote the books with her daughter, Rose. I think her daughter had more to do with the shaping them and making them the works of art they are today. I read once that Laura relayed an incident to Rose about her cousin trying to molest her and her fending him off with Pa's shotgun. Rose wisely said, "If you put that in, it's no longer a children's book." She didn't shy away from hard times or reality though. They're probably the best look at pioneer life that we have. [One comment in "The First Four Years" that I absolutely love--she wonders why she's been feeling so awful and eventually discovers she is pregnant with Rose. Her internal dialog is, "If you dance, you have to pay the fiddler."]
When Darren was little, he and his brother and sister watched the dreadful travesty that is the TV show. He gets incensed when I say that. He says, "But...it's so wholesome. It's family!" I say, "It's a ridiculous, saccharine bastardization of a timeless and award-winning set of memoirs. It's rubbish! All they did was borrow the names of real people and write schmaltzy '70s storylines for them!" Every once in awhile, we'll come across it on TV, and he'll leave it on just to bug me. He'll say, "Look at that. Isn't it so nice? Look at Pa and Half-Pint." I've gotten to the point where I don't even look up from what I'm reading. I just say, "Didn't happen. Nope. Diiiiiidn't happen." It annoys him, which is really fun.
So far I've protected Lucy from the TV series. Stay tuned.