The stories that Laura Ingalls wrote about her life on the prairie are packed with wisdom for us today. Thank you for joining me in this blog series on The Wisdom of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Did you know that Laura began her first school teaching job at the age of 15? She was hired to teach in a school 12 miles from her home; that was a long trip, with horses and wagons or buggies. This meant that she must be boarded at the home of the Brewster family near the school for the two-month duration of her term.
She wound up with a terrible family; today we would call them dysfunctional. The lady of the home was either yelling or silent, but never friendly. The toddler screamed constantly. The man of the house was either gone or brooding in a corner. It was nothing like the cheerfully family Laura had at home. She had to sleep on a narrow couch in the same room with the family.
She didn’t know how she would ever survive two whole months of this. She secretly hoped Pa would come get her for the weekend, but she knew it was a long drive for Pa’s horses.
What a wonderful surprise it was when, on Friday afternoon of the first week, Almanzo Wilder showed up with his fast team of horses and a small cutter, or sled. He had driven the twelve miles to take her home! She would have a short break from the dismal home she was staying in!
“Good morning!” Carrie said from her bed, and Grace bounced up and cried, “Good morning, Laura!” “Good morning.” Ma smiled when Laura entered the kitchen, and Pa came in with the milk and said, “Good morning, flutterbudget!” Laura had never noticed before that saying, “Good morning,” made the morning good. Anyway, she was learning something from that Mrs. Brewster, she thought.
Breakfast was so pleasant. Then briskly, and still talking, Laura and Carrie did the dishes, and went upstairs to make the beds. While they were tucking in a sheet, Laura said, “Carrie, do you ever think how lucky we are to have a home like this?”
Carrie looked around her, surprised. There was nothing to be seen but the two beds, the three boxes under the eaves where they kept their things, and the underside of the shingles overhead. There was also the stovepipe that came up through the floor and went out through the roof. (Taken from the book These Happy Golden Years in the chapter entitled Sleigh Bells)
Laura knew then that it is the people that make a home. She didn’t have a fancy home. She shared a bedroom with her 3 sisters in the attic of her father’s store in town. There were no fancy window treatments, no pictures on the wall; just a stovepipe and three boxes.
Downstairs was the same. They had homemade wooden furniture, a cook stove, a braided rug, simple tin plates and cups, and plain curtains on the windows. But to Laura, it was the best place in the world.
After supper, when Laura and Carried had done the dishes, Pa said as Laura had been hoping he would, “If you’ll bring me the fiddle, Laura, we’ll have a little music.”
He played the brave marching songs of Scotland and of the United States; he played the sweet old love songs and the gay dance tunes, and Laura was so happy that her throat ached.
Laura knew that home could be anywhere: in a covered wagon on the wide open prairie, a log cabin in the woods, a house made of dirt, a claim shanty in the Dakotas, or a store building in town.
It’s not the house, or the furnishings, that make a home. It’s the people, the smiles, the kind words, the hugs, the music, the laughter, and the time spent together.
Today, a fashionable home is a thing to be desired. We all want one. Most of us dream of a new sofa, or a nicer bedspread, or the perfect flower arrangement, or the latest window treatments. A beautiful home is a good thing. But let’s not forget what makes it truly special. It’s the people who live there, and the love they share.