As I hopped on the computer this morning, hoping for a quiet morning full of blogging inspiration, I got exactly what I asked for. Google alerted me (via their search header image) that today “is” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 148th birthday.
My love for writing started with reading. Sure, I asked my parents to read me a story many times in my young life, but I never really connected with a series so much as I did with the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. How a 10 year old in the 1990’s connects with a girl who would have been 10 in 1877, a much different place in time, is beyond me, but I did it. Perhaps it was living on the “Ohio Plains” of Wren, Ohio for three years, in the midst of farm country and back before the days of Apple TV and smart phones (which is how my kids know about the things they do). Perhaps it was her independent spirit, her love for describing her ordinary life, or her connection with her family that did it for me. Whatever the case, Wilder’s stories stuck with me and had a huge influence on me today.
It all started with bedtime stories. My mom and I would read a chapter (or more) a night, blasting through the whole Little House series and leaving me wanting more. And there were more. I swear we read books about Laura being a wife and mother in the Ozarks, navigating life as a farmer’s wife and all the things that the years leading up to the turn of the century brought (like the World’s Fair). (Try as I might, I can see the books in my head and probably even have them somewhere in this house, but I can’t find them on Google.) All of these books inspired me in ways I cannot adequately describe.
Sure, I knew I couldn’t just face 1990’s America as a pioneer kid. I loved my neon and roller skates and Boyz II Men, but that didn’t stop me from doing pioneer life inspired things. I dressed as Laura for Halloween one year (and if memory serves me right, the captured photo has me looking crazy miserable because that’s what pioneer photos looked like, “DUH”). There were pioneer treats that I HAD to have my mom help me make – like maple candy (which I think was snow candy after a conversation I had with a co-worker last week!) and gingerbread. A McDonald’s 101 Dalmatians toy puled the Conestoga wagon of my third-grade diorama (because Jack would NOT let me borrow horses, dogs it was). It’s odd to think that a busy lady like me once craved a much simpler time. And then there was the writing.
My stories started off simple, recollections of the summer days spent on the blocks of Wren – biking, fishing, playing softball and basketball. As I grew into a teenager, the stories churned into fan fiction about my friends and cousins meeting the Spice Girls or my idea of what it would be like for one of the juniors or seniors on my bus to take me on a date (to the Golden Corral, I was that kid that knew no better). And then, the stories became my dreams, my aspirations – writing stories about having Wendy for longer, stories about moving my whole world to Myrtle Beach the day after High School graduation / becoming a lifeguard / everything being perfect. There were poems, oh, the poems written late at night on a word processor about crushes and unrequited love. And then my passion turned into classes at school – journalism and AP English. Writing changed for me, it had more of a focus and less of a fantasy, but it was still all about the stories of ordinary life.
As I went off to college, the stories were clearly child’s play and I turned to writing papers and research and didn’t really write for fun. Sometimes I’d write on a political blog some friends and I put together, other times editorials for the college or local paper (I got heated about people tearing down fliers in our elevator and the local community being outraged that Poison was headlining the fair concert series). But I forgot to document life on paper. I tried in pictures, many of which I’ve now thrown out because of the pain around those times, and also because I didn’t think my ordinary life mattered that much.
But then, without thinking, I became a mom blogger, a title I am owning. A blogger who writes about her ordinary life with her ordinary kids and ordinary husband. We’re not special because we have space on the web, we’re just documenting what this life is like for us – exactly what Laura Ingalls Wilder, an ordinary girl with ordinary prairie life experiences did. And even if I never put solid, consistent thoughts in this space or in a published book, I am a writer who hopes that her kids will fall in love with the stories. Stories of us, stories of them, stories of others. And that these stories will inspire them to back away from the TV and camera and document the amazingly ordinary life that’s ahead for them so their kids can beg them to read them a story (like the one when Evan said BACON before Mama – his current favorite – or the one when Arianna got excited about a bird). And then, my writing, my purpose, will be fulfilled.