Laura Ingalls Wilder This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 21, 2012
“If she can do it, I can,” I told myself. “If she can do it . . . ” This was a common refrain, a way to inject strength and hope into my young, ordinary life. The single sentence was my favorite form of self-encouragement, though why it worked, I do not quite know. Perhaps it speaks to my lifelong love of books that my strength, even in my preschool years, was drawn from a series of stories and their spirited, entertaining author.

My inspiration, early in my childhood, came largely from the life and stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her tales of her extraordinary life enchanted me. I longed for her strength and bravery in the face of hardship and admired her loyalty and selflessness no matter what the occasion. Her spunk and playfulness, especially in her younger years, and also her companionship with her sisters, were qualities I dreamed of imitating. Laura’s life, despite all its trials, seemed better than anything I could ever imagine.

Of course, I lived a fairly ordinary life. Aside from being a little girl growing up in the Midwest, my life had very little in common with Laura’s. For one thing, the sister who figured most prominently in Laura’s stories was Mary, who was older than Laura. My only sister was three years younger than I was, meaning that, unlike Laura (who wrote quite a bit about the time she spent playing, talking, and arguing with her sisters), I was primarily a loner as a young child, and have remained that way ever since. Also, while Laura’s life was spent moving from place to place, I had been in the same house since babyhood. My life was peaceful, whereas Laura’s was filled with tragedy.

Nevertheless, I drew parallels between us. My experiences with my own sister were sometimes similar to Laura’s with her younger sisters, Carrie and Grace. I loved to believe that I mirrored some of Laura’s perseverance when I trudged up the sledding hill with my sled, over and over, on cold winter days. I compared my dresses with the dresses in the rare pictures that studded Laura’s novels. There were simpler similarities, too: We both delighted in the frost that coated our windows during our first few winters; we both loved to play outside in the inviting warmth of Midwestern summer days.

Then again, perhaps one of the things that I admired most about Laura was the fact that she managed to do things that I knew I never could or would do. From her survival without indoor plumbing to her bravery in the face of wild animals to her sacrificing of her own ambitions in order to bring income to her family, her life was more exciting than I could ever hope for mine to be, and she had bravery and selflessness of a type I had no opportunity to demonstrate, especially at such a young age. My imagination reveled in daydreams of being as brave, loyal, or kind as Laura.

I realize now that one of the reasons that I was drawn to Laura could have been a subconscious wish to do as she had, not only during her amazing life that she portrayed in her books, but also beyond. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I began to ask myself later, to live a life as adventurous as Laura’s, and then to someday write about it?

Another component in my love of Laura was perhaps the way she always seemed to do the right thing when it really mattered. From this interest, however, questions and doubt were born. Faced with a hard decision, as Laura was when Mary’s blindness prevented her from teaching, and the Ingalls family looked to Laura to do the job instead, would I be able to make the harder but better choice and give up my own dreams to improve the lives of others, as Laura had done? Or would I be unable to lay aside my own ambitions? Yet, whenever I was faced with a decision that I did not want to make, Laura was there, in my mind, instructing me to do as she would have done.

Although I eventually moved on to other books, other stories, and other heroes, Laura was the first, and I never completely forgot her. The values she exhibited and the decisions she made still inspire me today. Her character is one that I continue to strive to mimic. I predict that, one way or another, Laura will always be with me.

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RedheadAtHeart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm
As a longtime Laura devotee myself, I frankly love this piece. I didn't have much more in common with Laura growing up than you did, but still her story spoke to me; when I reread the whole series the summer I was sixteen I remember crying when she expressed how inferior she felt to Mary, and again later when she sacrificed her dreams, at the tender age of fourteen, realizing my own immaturity at that age. Anyway, what a beautiful homage to one of America's best and best-loved autho... (more »)
Helena.of.Karatha This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm
Thanks, Britta! I'm so glad you liked it and took the time to really say something about it.
HaileyS This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm
This is really touching! Wonderful job :)
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