Our Little House

School started Monday. I finished my summer reading to the kids this afternoon with the end of Little House in the Big Woods, a book we read together three years ago (half my daughter’s lifetime) and that the kids wanted to revisit.

I’m so glad they did. I had forgotten how delightful this book is.

We finished re-learning about how Ma made cheese and how she prepared hominy (which she called hulled corn) and how Pa convinced all his neighbors in the Big Woods of Wisconsin to hire an eight-horse-powered (literally horse powered) threshing machine that could do three weeks of work in a single day. In the end they are ready for winter, with their ample food stores in attic and cellar, and Pa plays his fiddle, sending us out to the strains of Auld Lang Syne.

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

That’s the end.

I found myself having to stop and take breaks reading this last bit because I kept choking up. Maybe it was Auld Lang Syne that set me off. I have a pre-existing weakness for that song because it’s what George Bailey sings when he’s reunited with his family and friends after he realizes that his life is worth living.

More than that, though, it was the understanding that Laura wrote this book in her 60’s, looking back on a way of life that by then no longer existed. I’m reading this book about a time more than 130 years ago, and little Laura thinks, “this is now”, and I’m looking at my own “now” and seeing how different it already is than the “now” of our last reading this book together, and I know that in a blink I’ll be in my 60’s and today’s “now” will be a long time ago.

What can I say? I’m a sentimental fool.

But now that I sit and think it out, I realize that I was this sentimental last time I read the book. And as much as I loved being with my 3- and 5-year-olds, I wouldn’t trade today’s “now” to go back to then. I’m enjoying today too much.

So I feel better.

Mostly.

Just trying to be honest.

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Categories: The Kids

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4 replies

  1. I’m a sentimental fool too. It took us over a year, but this month I finished reading all seven of the Chronicles of Narnia to my girls. I was choked up and weeping when we got to the last pages. I was so sad our journey was over — and that Narnia was ending!

    The book has an amazing end too. Lewis basically un-does the creation story and builds his very own version of heaven/paradise/afterlife for the characters. It’s really quite fascinating.

    During my family’s hikes in Yellowstone two weeks back, I kept quoting: “Further up and further in!” I couldn’t help myself. :)

  2. Ouch.

    The timing of this couldn’t have been more poignant.

    Saw my new office today, with all of the clutter and junk finally cleaned out of it; I’ll be able to move in to it on Monday, once the remodeling’s finished. I was pleasantly reminded of my old office back when I was a grad student at the U – somewhat spartan, no windows to distract, just a nice, quiet place to really concentrate on my classes and my research.

    And then it hit me – my old office doesn’t exist anymore. They were in the process of remodeling the grad student offices when I graduated; my office was slated for remodeling the week after I left. The place where I spent a good portion of my life for five years is already unrecognizable.

    Auld Lang Syne can become auld faster than you think.

    • What is it the Marines say? Pain is weakness leaving the body. I try to remember that for the emotional pain too.

      I have a crappy memory.

      BTW, congrats on the new digs.

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