Ingalls. The notion of my childhood life being "hard" in the 60s and 70s makes me laugh out loud now when I consider how much more difficult times are now in comparison. I don't mean to imply that I am not grateful for all of the things we have now that we didn't have then -- its just that having "more" isn't always a good thing. The paired-down life of Laura Ingalls seems like a pleasant, far-away dream to me now -- the vast prairies, the simple home with a ladder to the upstairs, the wagon and horse, the white schoolhouse, and the long ride into town.
I see now that the world of the Ingalls was my "safe place" as a child. My life then was a combination of wonderful, careful days and not so wonderful, noisy days. It was then that I delved deeper into my prairie refuge. I wanted to BE Laura Ingalls. I wanted to be a little girl who was kind and respectful to her parents - all the time. In my made-up world, I was that girl. I gradually turned my room into what I thought resembled a prairie home, more rustic and cozy. I even had a Kerosene lamp next to my bed. All of my dolls were Holly Hobby dolls and had names like Mary and Grace. Along with my best friend, we attempted once to build a covered wagon in the backyard, made of sheets and saw horses. We were able to get into it one time before the whole thing collapsed on top of us!
And it was special to have my best friend to share this passion with. Cherise was Laura because she was brunette and I became Mary eventually because I was blond. We were so dedicated to this transformation to another era that we began to attire ourselves in bonnets and prairie dresses (my wonderful Aunt Nancy made mine).
It was wonderful while it lasted, but then we turned 12. Twelve-year olds nowadays wouldn't be caught dead in a bonnet or with a Holly Hobby doll. But in those more simplier times, a 12 year old was still a child -- well especially me. I was so desperate not to grow up that when the first glimpses of womanhood appeared on my chest I wore a coat for a year! I did NOT want to leave the warm embrace of childhood. My best friend however, began to change at 12. The prairie world no longer held an interest for her -- boys did. All through the 6th grade (then it was the last year of elementary school) I wore braids in my hair as a silent protest to the encroching teen years.
In retrospect, those were some of the most magical days of my life, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. As Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” So to mothers of daughters out there -- let your daughters play with dolls if they desire. To mother's of sons, let them play with their Lego's a bit longer. Soon they too will cast away those childhood enjoyments and move on -- but their imaginations will remain intact. I am glad to have spent a few brief, blissful years "on the prairie".