Peach has been devouring (through my English reading skills) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. These were some of my favorites as a child, and it’s been wonderful to pass them on to the next generation.
My mother was musing about what their appeal could be to a little Orthodox Jewish girl living in Israel, and it got me thinking. Peach is a particularly inquisitive child, and while I think the lengthy explanations of how things were made and done back them (i.e. how sap was drained from maples for syrup-making, how to construct a sled, how a horse-powered thresher works) would be boring, her attention never seems to flag. Occasionally, I point out differences to her between how they live and how we do, such as what they eat (i.e. on the Oklahoma prairie they subsisted on meat, and almost no vegetables for a year), but most of the time, she is just rapt, hearing about a family that had three little girls (like hers), that moved long distances to new places, got to know new people, and had adventures. Not exactly like Peach’s, but worth hearing about nonetheless.
And I’m appreciating hearing the stories again, since with the Cap’n between jobs just now, the Crunch family is on an austerity plan. No more restaurant food, no more movies or unnecessary purchases. We’re making much more of our own fun, and I’m spending more time in the kitchen. Tonight was homemade pizza night with homemade sauce and crust. We’ll be having chicken tenders for Shabbat, homemade instead of from the Burgers Bar. And when my in-laws come to visit in February and bring our new ice cream maker, we’ll be having homemade ice cream instead of either the wretched stuff from the grocery store or the Ben & Jerry’s that costs us our firstborn. The girls know that after-dinner entertainment for the Ingalls family was when their father took out his fiddle and played and sang. No computer, no TV, and nowhere near the stock of toys, puzzles, dolls, and craft supplies they have in their very own playroom.
I used to love to imagine how my family would fare as settlers on the prairie. My father is quite handy, my mother a hardy laborer who makes a mean homemade bread. I thought we’d probably do pretty well. There would be plenty of hard work, but I figured we could handle it. I thought, if my dad could make a smoker (for meat and fish) out of an old refrigerator, what couldn’t we accomplish?
Once in a while, I’ve found myself having to rough it and getting a tiny taste of that life. When I was traveling around Asia or Europe, I could only take what I could carry, and sometimes found myself strewing things along the way that I couldn’t carry or didn’t need anymore. When I was in Asia, most bathrooms were a hole in the floor instead of the fancy porcelain commodes we have in the West. When I stayed in England for a few months, I had to wash all my laundry by hand. (The pub I worked at didn’t pay enough for me to go to the laundromat around the corner.) When we made aliyah, the Cap’n and I had to do dishes by hand for two years, since we waited until we had a place of our own to buy a dishwasher. And now that we’re cutting back on our expenditures, I’m making much more of our food than I used to. It’s nothing like living in a house we built ourselves, sleeping on a bed of straw on a frame made by the Cap’n, and subsisting on game we catch ourselves. (Thank God for that.) But it’s a little reminder that most people in the world don’t have what we have, or live like we do.
No harm in that.