Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The place begins to look like a farm

I know, I know. The Little House books are problematic...but I'm still reading them with my children (and hopefully talking through the problematic parts well enough to do them justice), and I still find myself gleaning good things from them.

I was reading them to Rachel and Miriam when we moved from Utah to North Carolina years ago and I found Laura's descriptions of moving and settling in to be comforting as we were moving and settling in. But I also remember being shocked at Laura's treatment of Native Americans, a fact that I once brought up at book club when we were discussing children's literature.

The Little House on the Prairie was such a big part of my childhood that I don't think I'll ever be able to not love it, but I do reserve the right to be disappointed in parts of it. Anyway, all that is to say that one of the ladies at book club gave a passionate (as in she was nearly crying) rebuttal about how Wilder's work was historic and that's just how things were at the time and she completely missed my point altogether (because I completely agree with her that it's a historical work).

And—frankly—I'm a little nervous to even write anything about that Durham book club because this one time I wrote what I felt was a perfectly innocent commentary on book club, revolving (I felt) around the theme of the book, and I mentioned something about how one of my visiting teaching companions had assumed that a recent widow in our ward had been divorced when really her husband had been in a care facility the entire time. And how that was similar to what the book described—that we can love someone and not be able to care for them (and how that doesn't diminish the love we have for them). It was seriously, like, a thirty second snippet of a much longer conversation (and the last comfortable conversation I would ever have with this person).


Long story short, this particular visiting teaching companion found out about my blog post (not that she ever read my blog; she didn't even know I had one!) from someone at bookclub who had overheard the conversation my visiting teaching companion and I had had regarding this other woman and who also happened to know about and read my blog. So my visiting teaching companion got all anxious and texted me a handful of times, each text more urgent than the last, and emailed me, and left me voice mail messages demanding that I take the post down (all while I was blithely cooking dinner) because it was so demeaning to her (though I have yet to actually understand how what I said was insensitive since I anonymized the conversation by calling her "my VT companion," which no lay reader would be able to uncode since people don't run around knowing who visit teaches whom, typically (when I pointed this out to her, saying, "Wow. I'm sorry that offended you so much. I thought it was pretty anonymous since I didn't use your name. This person must have some excellent sleuthing skills to know who visit teaches whom and with whom," to which she replied, "Well, she overheard the conversation and was able to piece it together," which seems like a weird point to make because then any of the 20 or so people at book club would have been able to overhear the conversation firsthand, which makes anything said there relatively unprivate, in my opinion). Anyway he was dreadfully embarrassed because my blog had such wide readership within our ward (though, trust me: it absolutely did not) and she couldn't believe I could be so insensitive and demanded I take it down (even though it didn't malign her in the slightest, in my opinion, I simply used an offhand remark that she had made to illustrate the very point the book seemed to be making).

But I took that post down.

And my relationship with her has never quite been repaired, which I'm still a little heartbroken about.

I've also remained leery of the person I suspected of ratting me out (who probably still reads this blog with a critical eye, I imagine, though, honestly, that's a vain imagining because this blog is really a trivial little thing with few followers (my analytics tell me)) for fomenting such drama between this particular visiting teaching companion and me over a few trivial sentences.

It was a bit of a Harriet the Spy experience, I suppose. And I'm glad that I could get it off my chest because it's been eating at me for...yes...years. And I thought it was behind me, but evidently not (probably because I'm feeling rather vulnerable right now).

Anyway, it's driven home the point to me that even if things are historically accurate, it doesn't mean people will necessarily appreciate reading them in black and white down the road.

Still, I don't know how Wilder could have treated Native Americans fairly in her books when...they...weren't...treated...fairly...historically? And I think it's promising that my children typically recognize when something seems amiss in the books—they know when Wilder is being unfair (or at least, they know it as often as I do).

All that is to say that this evening I was reading from Little Town on the Prairie (because I'm in the middle of reading the series to Zoë and Benjamin) and Laura and Ma are outside checking on their new chickens, enjoying a lovely prairie sunset, their luck having turned around after The Long Winter, which was dreadful, and Ma says contentedly, "The place begins to look like a farm."

And I felt my whole body relax the teeniest bit.

We had carpet installed in the basement today, and it was a the-place-begins-to-look-like-a-farm feeling.

This has been a hard month (on the heels of some not-terribly-easy times for our family) but, honestly, The Long Winter is enough to put anything I've ever experienced into perspective. We're going to be just fine.

The place begins to look like a home.

6 comments:

  1. Totally loved reading those books to my children. I am sad that you took the post down (you know what Brigham Young said about people who take offense). You have at least one voracious reader (who seldom comments (and is not critical (well mostly -- you are short one right parenthesis in the long paragraph (but who's counting?))))

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  2. I'm glad you are getting that looking-like-a-farm feeling about your house! I'm sorry about the drama from years ago, but appreciate this:

    "Anyway, it's driven home the point to me that even if things are historically accurate, it doesn't mean people will necessarily appreciate reading them in black and white down the road."

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    1. And yet...it's there in black and white. Laura Ingalls Wilder's word, for example, will forever condemn white settlers (and the government) for mistreatment of Native Americans, whether or not we are comfortable reading those words.

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    2. Right. Oh, I hope you didn't take my comment as criticism. I just meant that I appreciated that you gave me something to think over.

      Maybe I'll be quiet for awhile and just read. :)

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    3. Oh, no. :) You're fine. I love hearing from you.

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    4. Also, I guess I've spent quite some time thinking about things we won't want to read in black and white fifty years from now. Things that we accept now that I hope won't be accepted down the road. It's a long list.

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