Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little House Reflections

DeSmet, South Dakota.  May 2010. 
My childhood is full of memories of traveling east of the Missouri River to visit my Grandpa Tommy and Grandma Edna south of Ree Heights, SD, along with visits to my aunts and uncles and cousins.  Nostalgia seems to fill my lungs when I cross the river and take a deep breath.  In addition to those visits, hearing the theme music to Little House on the Prairie or picking up a yellow copy of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book stirs up an immediate lump in my throat of sweet childhood memories.  I thought my parents, Phil & Linda, were perfect just like Charles and Caroline Ingalls ~ Pa and Ma.  I imagined that I would grow up and marry Michael Landon.  I cried when he passed away.  The romance of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder was the first I ever read in These Happy Golden Years and the first I remember watching on television.

So all of that goes to explain why I literally was holding back tears several times on Tom's class field trip to DeSmet last month.  Learning experience for the kids, yes.  But for me as a mom . . . it was traveling back to a time of innocence and wonder and heroes. 

The real trigger was when we were nearing the end of our tour and the sweet guide asked the kids if they would like to hear Laura's voice.  All of the kids were eager to hear.  And there was me.  Standing in the middle of 9,10, and 11 year olds leaning in close to hear a cassette tape of an interview in 1952, with Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I had never heard her voice.  Right away, I am misty eyed.  As she spoke, of her beloved dog Jack going to the "Happy Hunting Grounds", I looked up to the ceiling and rapidly blinked my eyes.  Out of the corner I caught a glimpse of my 10 year old son looking sideways at me with a crooked little grin on his face.  Later on the way home, I said, "I almost cried when I heard her voice."  He said, "I know, Mom, I saw you," with a smile reserved for a mom from a son who thinks maybe she's a little silly to cry over the oddest things, and yet still loves her anyway.  Yes, I know, I am a total museum and history nerd . . . but over the top when it comes to Laura.  It is almost like she was a great grandmother whose voice I had never heard.  I was like an Elvis fan at Graceland, but I was in DeSmet, South Dakota.

Old memories of watching Little House on the Prairie on a black and white television in a 1972 trailer house, reading my faded yellow copies of Laura's books and a trip with my mom, brother, Aunt Shirley and cousins Tom and Troy to see the pageant of Little Town on the Prairie in DeSmet, SD on the hottest day of the summer.  New memories of traveling with my son and his class and all the other moms and grandmothers sharing their own "Little House" memories.  Making new memories with my own kids as we are reading Little House in the Big Woods each night before bed.

As an adult, I have a new appreciation and respect for her.  I share a passion for writing of life on the prairies of South Dakota.  Of remembering the details of life...the difficult and the delightful.  Sharing my stories.

Good times.  Do any of you have memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder books or watching Little House on the Prairie?  I'd love to hear!  Post a comment.  Share a memory.  Let me know you visited!

P.S.  If you've read much of my blog, you will notice that "embracing your place" and "savoring life here and now" and "finding beauty in the moment" are a theme of mine.  In celebration of that, I'm considering celebrating my state ~ South Dakota with a weekly post for the summer. . . "South Dakota Summer Saturdays".  . . . so even though this is not Saturday. . . this post would be an example. . . what do you think?  Any thoughts about that?  It will lean heavily on the western portion of the state...because of where I live.  But just sharing a thought I have . . .

Photos:  Tom and me. My niece Katie.  The Big Slough with DeSmet in the background.  L.I. Wilder quote engraving.  Kids driving the team to the schoolhouse.  Example of a corn cob doll like Laura had in Little House in the Big Woods. 

Copyright June 2010.  Jodene (Jodi) Shaw


  1. My earliest memories of Laura are of "opening exercises" (my teacher, in my own country school, reading for about 15 minutes each morning from LI books). Then reading the books myself. But the most special.........that hottest day of the summer in DeSmet. Mom

  2. Loved reading about your Little House of the Prairie experience with your son. Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a touching story! I can really relate to your experience as my love for Laura and the whole pioneer era is strong as well. I have never been to the play or exhibit in DeSmet. I know I would love it, too. I have nearly every episode of "Little House" memorized and on dvd. My kids are getting just old enough now to be interested in the books. I look forward to reading her stories to them and making those memories special.

    What I admire most about Laura (and I always see her as freckled Melissa Gilbert) is her spunk, spirit of adventure and desire for living in the moment as the pictured quote stated.

    Thanks for sharing your experience in such a well written and heartfelt way. I admire you, too, Jodi. The more I learn about you through your FB posts and blogs, the more I apprecitate who you are and the passionate way you live your life. I feel a certain connection, because as I said earlier, I can relate. (Especially the crying at odd things and that look from your kids!!) Anyway, thanks again. I enjoyed the read!

  4. Love those memories! I feel the same way about hearing Laura's REAL voice. I was so disappointed when at first the guide didn't play it--thought maybe they had quit doing it. Then I was SOOO excited when I asked about it, and she had simply forgotten it. There is just something about hearing her voice that makes her books come to life even more. Thanks for putting all of this in words, Jodi!
    A fellow Laura nerd,
    Mrs. :-)

  5. Thanks Tommi Jo & Kim for reading and sharing...I appreciate your thoughts and kind words. It's good to have sister "Laura groupies" out there! So good to hear from you Joan...I also barely remember going to Walnut Grove in MN when I was about 4. I remember wanting a dress and a bonnet from the Walnut Grove store (like Katie is wearing in the picture above...she has that Melissa Gilbert look). And yes, Mom, the hottest day and the coffee pot overflowing at, was it The Wagon Wheel Cafe??


Welcome ~ share your beautiful thoughts.