On our road trip to Santa Cruz a few weeks ago, I prepared with audio books. Last year we drove to Sequoia and listened to music (Hamilton was big then) as well as short stories from a kid's story podcast. We also had that awesome Star Wars recording from the 70's: The Story of Star Wars. Harper loves that, but it's only an hour long. As she is older and as it was going to be a longer trip, I thought why not Little House?
I downloaded Little House In The Big Woods and Little House On the Prairie. We listened to the first one all the way up and Harper seemed to like it. I asked her what her favorite parts were and she said, "When they were telling the stories" which means when Pa is telling stories about his own childhood and adventures. We started listening to LHOTP on the way home, but only got a few chapters in as we chose music and other stuff on that drive. So, I started reading the rest of the book to Harper at bedtime, two chapters a night.
Last night we got to the end and I was a MESS.
First I have to remind you that I am a HUGE fan of these books. Been reading them as long as I can remember. In fact, these two books (LH in the Big Woods and LH on the Prairie) are the first books I remember owning and going to the bookstore with my mom to get the next book was SO EXCITING. (Only rivaled by a more recent me opening my front door to receive the latest Harry Potter via Amazon on release day.) I read the LH books to this day, just for fun. I have bought many other books about these books. I love these books. I know useless details, not unlike this woman here, who is my LH twin.
When you read them out loud, to your five year old -- It gets different. I knew there would be issues with the way the Indians are portrayed and the way they are talked about in LHOTP but DAMN. So after a few pages of "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" chit chat, I stopped to tell Harper about how people were wrong about a lot of things a long time ago. And that this book was written a long time ago and how they talk about Native Americans is wrong. And that people know better today. (Well, I didn't tell her the whole truth about racism still existing, as she'll learn that soon enough.) I brought it up again in later chapters about the "Indian War Cry" and she nodded as I reminded her about how wrong they were about the whole notion of who the Osage were.
As the book ends, the family has to leave as they had accidentally strayed into "Indian Territory" by 3 miles and soldiers would come and move them out. Pa just packs the wagon and they are off. They had built a house and a stable and bought and planted seeds for a corn field, potatoes and other veggies. And they just left it all. Then they say goodbye to their neighbors, one of them being Mr. Edwards, and they roll on west.
Me being the emotional sort and also enjoying the roller coaster of emotions that is menopause, I was crying as I read the end. Harper seemed unfazed by my crying - clearly she's used to me. It's not the first time I've cried while reading her bedtime stories. There is one written by a jewish woman telling the story about a quilt made and handed down through her family. And the one about the guy who walked the tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The book ends with "the towers are gone now..."
Anyway, I'm a cryer.
Last night as I put the book away and tucked Harper in, I thought ahead to the next books, excited to read them aloud. Farmer Boy is next and I like that one for a change of pace. Then Plum Creek. All good. Then I thought about Silver Lake and almost started crying right then. Silver Lake starts with (spoiler alert) Mary going blind and Jack the trusted dog DYING! I remember SOBBING when I very first read it as a kid. Man, that was brutal. It still makes me cry.
This is all a dream come true, tears or no tears. And I'm not going to force it. I hope hope hope that we keep reading these, that Harper reads them on her own as well and that she'll say "YES!" when I ask if she wants to go to Pepin Wisconsin or DeSmet South Dakota. For now, I'll keep the kleenex handy.