I’ll admit it.
I cried at the end of These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
It wasn’t a full on sobbing on the Metro, make a spectacle of myself cry. Let’s just say things might have been a little dusty around 5:30 on the Red Line that day.
It’s been quite a journey with the Ingalls family. I can be a big cynic, but to see the little family get what feels like their happily ever after was good. In the previous book there was a lot of talk about what the family didn’t have, but this book oozes with contentment. This book covers quite a few years, and they are happy, and golden. I was able to enjoy this book for what it was rather than getting hung up on Ma’s racism, and Pa’s selfishness like I did in the previous books.
“But best of all were the mornings and the evenings at home. Laura realized that she had never appreciated them until now. There were no sullen silences, no smoldering quarrels, no ugly outbreaks of anger.
Instead there was work with pleasant talk, there were happy little jokes and evenings of cozy studying and reading, and the music of Pa’s fiddle. How good it was to hear the old familiar tunes as the fiddle sang them in the warm, lamplighted room of the home. Often Laura thought how happy and how fortunate she was. Nothing anywhere could be better than being at home with the home folks, she was sure.”
When the book starts Laura’s a real live teacher, and she’s being courted by Almanzo.
Laura has trouble with her students, and she continues to seem more interested in Almanzo’s horses than in him. In fact she never really makes a play for Almanzo until Nellie Olson gets interested in him, which was one of the most awesome parts of the book.
They’re not so big on celebrating Christmas in this book, but they go all out for the Fourth of July. There are big parties, fireworks, cups of lemonade, relaxing days on the claim, and buggy rides with Almanzo. We do get one last Christmas that starts dull but ends with Almanzo visiting through the snow a la Pa in Plum Creek. I wonder if that really did happen, or if Laura and daughter Rose figured that it worked in Plum Creek, so let’s trot it out again.
In the end (spoiler alert) Laura Ingalls Wilder settles down with Almanzo Wilder. I may not have been too impressed with Laura’s pantry in her married house as a little girl, but as a mom it sounds heavenly. The thought of a pantry when I’ve been struggling with two kids and one cabinet and an armoire- it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
I choose to leave Laura there, happy with her pantry.
There is a book about her early marriage, called The First Four Years. I’ve read it, and don’t recall liking it. Same with Farmer Boy, Laura’s novelization of Almanzo’s childhood. It just wasn’t for me. I choose to think of her living out her days in her own little house, filling her pantry with balls of sweet butter from the cow Pa gave her as a wedding present.
When I started reading these books as a new mom I fell in love with the Ingalls family.
However, reading them again has made me see the good and the bad. It’s an interesting snapshot of a time we won’t see again, but not a social structure we want to go back to. I’ll still eat stove popped popcorn, drink tea, and think of the prairie on winter nights.