In my childhood home there was a 6×6 square ‘hallway’ of sorts where there were two bedroom doors, a bathroom door and archway into the living room. If the three doors were shut it made a perfect pioneer log cabin play space. I would grab my mom’s metal pie pans, wooden spoons, my bonnet, slate, lunch pail and ‘old school book’ and play Little House to my heart’s content. Chapter two in Little House in the Big Woods provided the perfect outline on how to play, because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it correctly. You see, even though I watched the TV show reruns, which hold a special place in my heart, I used the books as my ultimate guide.
The daily chores of pioneer life have always fascinated me. Doing the dishes, making the beds, doing the laundry and cooking were all the fascinating to me. So my imagination worked overtime playing. The daily tasks laid out in the chapter by Ma, were the perfect template. Washing, ironing, mending, churning, cleaning, baking and resting all had their specific day.
The how to of churning captivated my attention the very first time I read this book. How much patience, time and energy it took to get some butter. It was something that I took for granted. It was always in the refrigerator. Last summer I was able to purchase some butter molds from an antique shop. I had to pull out this chapter and reread it. My mom asked what I was going to do with my butter molds and I said, “Put them with my Little House books”, and I wondered, “what else did she think I was going to do with them?”
I also appreciated that Mary and Laura played with paper dolls. I had several sets of paper dolls (including a group of pioneer paperdolls) that I spent hours and hours playing with. Laura and Mary played Mad Dog with their Pa and my brothers and I rode on our dad’s back like a horse in the evenings. It was just one more way that that the Ingalls girls were like me, or that I was like them. It always made me so happy that I could be like them.
In the back half of this chapter Pa tells the story of their Grandfather and the Panther. Grandfather goes off into the woods without his gun and he crosses paths with a panther. I thought all grandpas would have stories like these. I was sorely disappointed that neither of my grandfathers had a story like that in their past.
I often wonder if I were to go back to my childhood home, would that space still feel like a cabin, or would the magic be gone? Since we don’t live in that town or that house anymore, I will always be able think of that hallways as my very own cabin in the Big Woods.