Sometimes I get nostalgic for the books of my youth, and I root around in the bookcases for Anne Shirley or Trixie Belden. A week or so back I found myself perusing the shelves, looking for a little comfort read, and my eyes kept going back to my nifty Little House boxed set. I said, "Why not?" and pulled out Little House in the Big Woods, intending to while away a couple of hours with the Ingalls family during their time in a log cabin in Wisconsin. Next thing I knew, I was up to The Long Winter on the prairies of North Dakota, and I just couldn't stop myself. It took me three days to read through the eight book series, which begins with Laura "Half-Pint" Ingalls as a little girl and ends in her fourth year of marriage to Almanzo Wilder.
The Little House books are sweet, quick, and reminiscent of a time and place when church socials, county fairs, and buggy rides were the excitement of the day. Settlers battled the elements, Indians, and the government as they strove to carve out their place in the history of the American Dream. While I was breezing through the series, I thought of my experience with Revolutionary Road a couple of weeks before, and how I proclaimed that the American Dream was a ghost during the 1950s, long since dead of ennui. It was interesting to be reminded that at one point in time that idea of manifest destiny was very much alive and well in our country. I'm not someone who would like to return to that time; I enjoy indoor plumbing and voting rights and my car and supermarkets and the interwebs far too much to want to live on a farm and go to town in a wagon on Sundays while deferring to my husband and keeping an eye out for blizzards, pests, and Indian raiding parties - there is a certain note of racism throughout the books that I didn't recognize as a child, most notably with regards to Ma Ingalls' view that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." However, I've always believed that every little girl should have a set of Ingalls Wilder's books and I treasure the many hours that I spent with them in my younger years.