For the fifteenth year in a row, I am coming to the end in my reading of the Little House on the Prairie books. They always leave me deeply considering the differences between their lifestyle and my own, and the ways the world has changed since then.
I guess that in reading them, I romanticize the past – and being written for children, Laura Ingalls left a lot of her more frightening experiences out of the book. But some of it, much of it, was real, and I am left feeling that I would have fit better in her world than my own.
For one thing, everyone knew what was expected of them, all of the time, it seemed. Faith was expected. Women and men had their separate jobs, and were taught how to do these from a young age. Handicrafts, cooking, cleaning, and gardening were part of the girls daily routine. Schools were small, and often the children studied at home when there was no school nearby.
Wood heat, much time spent at home, women expected not to work outside of the home after marriage… It seems I wouldn’t feel so out of place in such a world, and I find great sadness over the fact that these life lessons, which allowed these families to live independently when necessary, have not been taught to me… have been forgotten in the convenience of modern life.
But then I am returning to vegetarianism. That would be impractical, especially in the winter months, with such a lifestyle. While I would love to own the animals – horses, cows, goats, chickens… and wouldn’t mind milking, making butter, or collecting eggs (though I would hope my egg allergy and dairy intolerance would have more to do with modern ways of doing things, and would heal under such a lifestyle) I couldn’t be part of butchering, cleaning, preparing the meat or furs. I would never be able to get that out of my mind, and it would add to my PTSD, I am sure of it.
And while I love wood heat, more than any other, there is something to be said to having central heating available for backup. There were many times during the winter that Laura had to get out of bed to dress in freezing temperatures. I have trouble getting out of my bed when our gas heat is set to 15 C during the winter months. Also, living on the prairie, they ended up having to turn to coal heat, which was dirty, and costly, and left them dependent on the trains getting through.
I wouldn’t mind traveling by horse and buggy – but that made travel to other places so impossible, that upon moving away, they were not able to see parts of their family again. I already struggle with the distance when something like $550 and a 5 hour plane flight will get me home, with a ticket back again.
They also seemed much more fashion minded than I like to be. I wouldn’t mind wearing dresses, aprons, even petticoats – but the hoops and corsets? No thank you! I have so many sensory issues, that wearing these, and the itchy wool underclothes, would mean constant pain and distraction for me. It seems so uncomfortable, and impractical to be so considerate of modern fashion trends (of which I have never had much interest.)
And then there were the hard years, where they couldn’t grow enough food to carry them through. Though I hate the idea of being so incapable of growing and preserving food for my family, as I am, I would think it would be terrifying, also, to not have the option of turning to grocery stores for staples, and emergency food supplies. That, and the fact that I would be exhausted trying to do it all myself.
Still, after all of this analysis over the disadvantages of this lifestyle, I still long for the days when so much of how they lived fit in with who I am, and the things that calm me, and I wonder if Asperger’s in women was not seen in days past because we could better fit in with the expectations of society, where now in striving, we still fail, and do not belong.