Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Memories -- the little house

I love children’s literature, The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder being one of my favorites in that genre. Mrs. Elizabeth Roberts, my third grade school teacher read the series aloud to us. And then, because third and fourth grades were combined in our country school, she reread them to us my fourth grade year, too. I have read and reread them several times since (the last time being two summers ago).

Ma’s mantra, “All’s well that end’s well,” pops in my head occasionally as well as Pa saying it’s all fair in the end, the rich get their ice in the summer and the poor get their ice in the winter. “Details. Details. Details.” I often say to our kids, remembering when Ma told Laura that she must be Mary’s eyes when Mary went blind. Mrs. Roberts said that is why Laura was such a good writer; she learned to describe details to Mary.

The self-sufficient way the Ingalls’ lived inspired me to bottle and preserve more than jam and fruit. Once when I needed to make hard tack I knew I could because Ma did. Ma made Pa a mock apple pie with slices of green pumpkin sprinkled heavy with cinnamon. And I think it was Ma that taught me to substitute winter squash for pumpkin in pie. We serve creamed potatoes and peas for the 4th of July, because that is what Ma did. The sheer enormity of food served in Farmer Boy makes me look like a nibbler and a stingy cook.

And then there was the house cleaning. Remember airing out the mattresses and filling them with fresh dry grass? Remember how good it felt to wash all the bedding after The Long Winter? Remember when Father and Mother Wilder went on a trip and left the kids home alone for a week? Eliza organized Alice, Royal, and Almanzo into doing the spring cleaning. They beat the rugs, washed the walls, and polished the parlor stove. That was when Almanzo got mad at Eliza for being bossy and threw the brush with black polish at her. Eliza ducked and it splat on the wall. Almanzo was certain a whipping was in his future, but Eliza proved she was a good sister by replacing the soiled wallpaper.  Mother Wilder was never the wiser.

The Little House illustrations by Garth Williams:






Several times last week I thought about the deep-cleaning that went on in The Little House books because we had some cleaning going on in our little house.

A few weeks ago Cali called saying, “Ray’s going to be hunting in Alaska in a few weeks. How about if I come over and help you do all those little things you haven’t been able to get done – things like touch-up painting and fall housecleaning.”

Last Tuesday when I came home from school Cali was ready to begin. She is a workhorse. No project intimidates her. What started as a little touch-up painting soon ended with the room changing from red and tan to a bright, cheery yellow – complete with some new baseboards and a painted closet. What started as a little spot cleaning turned into shampooing all the carpets. While I thought a few bags to Goodwill would be enough, we filled the back of the pick-up. Wall-washing was the smallest of the chores and taking apart and moving the bed the next smallest. What we didn’t get done (there are only so many hours in a week after all) is carefully itemized on a list that Cali drafted. She promised that she will be checking up on me to make sure I finish it.

I like Cali being the ma and me being the Laura. I think we should play this game more often.  I would never have tackled in one week what she did.  She gave me courage and determination.  Cali is thorough, efficient, willing to serve . . . and I only wanted to throw a brush at her once and that was when she said I couldn’t go to bed until the room was finished.

The Payne House illustrations:

Cali and Grace painting Ande's-now-turned-Grace's bedroom


Our living room with nary a spot on the walls or carpet


the dining room without a cobweb or flyspeck


"Can I pleeeeease go to bed now?"

I love our clean little house.

18 comments:

Lucy said...

LOVE the editing for your photos. Love the back story. I've never actually read Little House. Only ever seen the television show, which, by the way, didn't have the same effect on me. I wonder if that is why I don't can?:)

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Lucy,

No way! There is no way you could not have read The Little House books! Michael Landon, God rest his soul, is no replacement for Pa. I don't even want to go see The Little House museums for fear they will disturb my imagination. I like them as they are in my head.

Please, please....someday read them. After Jesus, The Christ of course ;0)

deidra said...

I haven't read them, either. After FHE I'll put them on hold at the library and right my wrong. I've been reading a lot of children's literature lately and wondering how I missed it all the first time.

Ande Payne said...

Oh I loved this blog! It made me want to go read Little House and be at home...although I'm not very sad I missed cleaning. But the pictures look great!

Greg and Gwen said...

Lydia and I just started reading the first book together this last week. They are the PERFECT stories for a mother and daughter to share together and I'm excited for her to learn to love them as much as I do!

Cali said...

I love that you posted a picture of yourself with the headband. The headband that made it hard for us ALL to take you serious because you looked so silly in it. I love you mom. Thanks for letting me come crack the whip. Also, thanks for reminding me how WoNDERFUL the Little House books are. My favorite was reading them ALL straight through when I was a freshman in highschool and being so surprised it was a romance... DUHHHH!

Jill said...

Having a partner for work like that makes it so much easier, what a great gift for Cali to give you!

I need to reread those books, they were definitely a childhood favorite of mine.

Susan said...

Goodness, I might need to "borrow" Cali to come crack the whip! (not on me though, I'm tired and I have children that need crackin')

I love the Little House books too. My favorite part is the Big Woods, where Ma does all the stuff for Christmas. That just seemed like the best Christmas ever....

tina said...

Really . . . is Cali available for the borrowing? Amazing!

You so thoughtful when you write (probably many other times, as well). Thank you for being inspiring, even though I know what you are thinking as you read this. :)

hennchix said...

I adore the little house books! Iagree that having the big woods in my imagination is better than any museum would be. Who drew those awesome pictures?

Grace said...

I've never read the books either! And I LOVE my new yellow room! Cali, thanks for crackin the whip and making our house look so beautiful. Ande, wish you could have been here to help too ;).

melanie said...

I'm sure most everyone could use a Cali in their life. Would it be wrong to pray Kathryn wants to help me like this one day?

I love your writing, your memory and your photo illustrations. Headband and all.

(my verification word is recess. something you wanted last week, huh?)

Deanna/Mimi said...

There is always memories being made at the Payne home. I love visiting several times a week and see how fun life can be if we just get in and make it happen. What a choice family lives in the home the Payne's made. How the spirit of all that is good and beautiful has taken up residence there...the home and its atmosphere is pleasing, comfortable and abounding in love. Well done Jane...well done!

katles said...

Jane,
Your reason for not going to The Little House museums is exactly the reason I don't like watching the Harry Potter movies. The world your imagination creates from the descriptions in a book is, in my opinion, a million times more intriguing and exciting than anyone else's depiction (even if they are great at what they do). I don't want someone else's interpretation to infiltrate mine...(okay...done with my soapbox now...)

Yay for good literature! I love(d) the Little House books too. You've got good taste!

Julie said...

I did read the Little House books over and over (as well as the Anne of Green Gables series). I love them. I especially loved the Christmas adventures with the sleigh and the whole family together in a cozy house with a fire in the fireplace. Just great reading! I need Cali for my move. I've been dragging lately and need a helper to get me going and tell me I can't go to bed until it's done. Cali, you're officially invited to Norway! Can you come before my movers in October? Your house looks great Jane! I love yellow walls, Grace is lucky to have such a cheery room!

Becky said...

Sweet nostalgia...

Love your photo-editing too...

And, pretty please, send Cali my way the next time Ray goes hunting :)

Anonymous said...

Jane! Ken and I are headed to North Dakota in a few weeks and I am going to go to DeSmet! It's a pilgrimage I've been wanting to take since I was in 4th grade. I'll let you know if it is great, or is, like the "Little House" series, just plain wrong.

I'm excited,
BRENDA

PS The Primary program was delightful

Rachel said...

Aaww...this makes me miss visiting you guys. It's gonna be a while before I get to come see you all again. I guess that means you should all come visit me instead. Just an idea ;)