My childhood, like most people my age, was spent mostly outside. Yes, I’m OLD. Ok, I’m 29, so not old, but at least old enough to be able to say ‘that didn’t happen in my generation!’ with suitable disgust for the current one. I ran around outside with wild abandon as much as I possibly could. We didn’t have a computer or Nintendo (at least not until much later) and we weren’t allowed to watch tv. Yes that’s right. We had to Make Our Own Fun. Thankfully I had an incredibly vivid imagination and created elaborate stories within my own head to entertain myself. There were whole plotlines with different characters I’d invented and I always had the starring role. Plus I was always totally awesome. I was always some sort of adventurer or explorer and was always in the middle of some wacky escapade. Man, it was great being a kid.
My childhood was separated out very clearly: whether or not it was warm enough to run around outside without shoes. Every spring it took my feet a few weeks to toughen up enough so that I could run around like the crazy kid I was. Our house was located on an acre lot, which backed up against a few other acre lots. Between all of us, we had a pretty sizable forest for us to play in. I’d usually disappear outside for hours and would only come back inside when it was time for dinner. I’ll admit, a common adopted persona was some sort of warrior Indian princess. It had to be a princess so I could go running off riding horses and shooting arrows, instead of being stuck at home tanning buffalo hide. Trust me, this all made perfect sense to me at the time. Last time I was home my dad said he still occasionally finds random things tucked away in our ‘forts’ out in the backyard.
A lot of my adventures were shaped by which fictional character I’d chosen at that point in time to vividly re-enact for my own amusement. That Indian princess thing was based on Pocohontas, I think (the real one, not the lame Disney version). For a long time it was Annie (from the movie ‘Annie’). Why I’d become so obsessed with an orphaned girl who spent the majority of her time cleaning an orphanage, I’ll never know. I think there was some appeal to the breaking out of the orphanage part, plus there’s that whole getting-rescued-with-the-helicopter-at-the-end thing. Oh, and as an aside, if those orphans spent all their time cleaning up that orphanage, how come it never seemed to be clean? You’d think they’d manage it if they cleaned it every single day, all day. Must be those incredibly ill-advised pillow fights while singing ‘Hard Knock Life.’ Even at six years old (the beginning of the Annie obsession) I knew that breaking open feather pillow cases wasn’t a very smart idea when you’re also in charge of cleaning up the place.
Anyway, I digress. Following Orphan Annie, my chosen obsession was Laura Ingalls Wilder, she of the Little House on the Prairie. I LOVED Laura. I have a very clear memory of running downstairs the morning after my mom had said she would pick up the Little House books for me. It was so excited it was like Christmas morning. I actually woke my mom up when I only discovered the first book. She couldn’t check out ALL the books from the library, she explained sleepily, it’d take us time to read them all. And read them all we did, with mom’s help at first but on my own by the time we reached the last book. I was enthralled with frontier life, which seemed far more interesting than my own. I dressed up as Laura for several Halloweens and had many frontier adventures. My pink schwinn was my horse. I’m pretty sure there were sound effects.
With all this running around outdoors, you can imagine that we weren’t really a tv watching family. Like I said, I wasn’t allowed to watch television at all, unless it was public television (Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Square One, you get the idea). Saturday morning cartoons were the one exception. I have a suspicion that was less of a reward for us and more about letting my mom and dad sleep in for at least one day without us harassing them. As you can imagine, this was a SEVERE problem when they started airing Little House on the Prairie episodes in the afternoons after school. I HAD to watch Laura. I just had to. Unfortunately my mom was just as adamant that we would not be watching TV. I spent a LOT of time and energy trying to convince her otherwise.
Over the past few months, I’ve been rewatching all those old episodes of Little House. It has been a blast from the past of the most bizarre kind. I remember some scenes of some of the episodes but I’ve forgotten a lot. But the thing about this show is that it makes me cry. ALL THE TIME. I’m serious, all the time. I have a tendency to cry at movies and tv shows anyway, but this show has just influenced my tear ducts in a way that nothing ever has before. EVER.
That episode where Carl, Alicia and John Jr are all orphaned and they think they’re going to be split up and then Mr. Edwards stands up in church and says he won’t split up that family and how he’s going to be their pa and oh yeah, he and Grace better get married so that they can be a family? Bawling. That other episode where Mary goes away to take the huge state-wide math test and only gets second place so she thinks she let the town down, but then they come back into town and everybody is cheering for her and she thinks they don’t know she didn’t win but it turns out the DO know and how they’re all proud of her anyway? Or the one where the pack of wild dogs attacks Mary and Laura and Carrie and they have to hide in the hayloft and beat off the dogs with the pitchfork and their pet wolf dies in order to protect them? Oh man, I even shed a tear for that one! That show really tugs on the heart strings.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that Pa is pretty hot? He totally is. When did that happen?