Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Little House in the Big Suburb

One of my favorite books as a kid -- which I think probably was some sort of sign -- was Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods.

I found the recollection of her time as a young girl living deep in the Wisconsin frontier in a log home built with her father's own hands fascinating; I read it several times over. I loved the detailed descriptions of the daily life, which was one of endless hard work, where every member of the family -- even young children -- had important responsibilities necessary to survival. Yet this hard work didn't seem like drudgery to me; I would set the book down, close my eyes, and indulge in reveries about what those tasks would be like. (In reality, my parents eventually gave up trying to get me to do anything resembling a chore; I was fairly undisciplined, in that regard.)

The highlight of the book was the Christmas celebration; relatives arrived from far away loaded in a sleigh which came gliding across the snow through the woods, with everybody wrapped in thick blankets. Children got handmade toys and adults got more practical gifts, like tools and clothing. They all went together to a big party at a neighboring farm and danced by candlelight, with the snow falling thickly all around.

This seemed like real Christmas, to me.

I liked the book so much that I even tried to replicate one of the experiences. Wilder recalled how she would go outside with a little bit of maple syrup, which she would pour in squiggles in the snow, and after a time it would harden into "candy." So of course the next time there was about an eighth of an inch of snow in the backyard (which counts as a major front-page blizzard in Portland) I took our plastic bottle of Golden Griddle and squirted some on the ground.

Now, I'm guessing the Wisconsin woods get a sight colder than western Oregon. Also it probably helps to use real, homemade maple syrup rather than...well, Golden Griddle. I waited patiently for about five minutes, but it hadn't really set up. I went back inside for a bit, but when I came back out to check, nothing really had happened. I grew impatient and decided to go ahead and taste it. Basically I had made sweet brown snow, with a little bit of dirt for texture.



Mike B. said...

Pretty sure I did the same thing. Mmm, indeed.

Robb said...

I love that story. Something I would've tried if I'd ever had the idea.

Marc said...

It would have to be well below freezing for this to happen, and even then, perhaps not. But you had fun trying! Did anyone see you?

Gino said...

i must have missed a good book. but i did see the movie. does that count as almost.

a real Christmas?
with snow?
not any one that i've known.

Jeff said...

Better brown than yellow.

DJRainDog said...

I found this post mildly amusing (I, too, read the book when I was a lad), until I read the tag at the end of the post, "Warning Signs That Your Child Is Queer". And then, I laughed heartily. I love the bluntness. It's something I can almost hear the little old cigarette-smoking Hallmark Shoebox Greetings lady saying (with a heavy Brooklyn accent).

kr said...

My complete Ingalls-Wilder box-set has made it through three adult-era library-purges. (Somehow I keep ending up with like 2000 books ... and really one only needs 1000 or so, in the house, right? I mean, there are public libraries. And Powells Books.)

I am not even going to TRY to decide what this means in the context of this discussion ;), but my equal-favorites were Little House in the Big Woods (I loved that scene where the adult women were doing their hair for the Christmas party) and Farmer Boy (I liked the established feel of the non-pioneer farm routine).

And yep, every time it snowed, for years, I also considered trying that syrup thing :).

Quinn said...

Count me among those who tried (and failed at) this.