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Laura and Me
Beep! Beep! It’s Friday morning, and my alarm clock is shouting insistently at me. I set the snooze button and groan. There are a million reasons I don’t want to get up today, go downstairs, and write my “autobiographical sketch” for school. Number One: It’s cold! I left the window open last night, and my blankets are so very warm…
Two, I am still half asleep. Getting up in the morning is probably my least favorite part of the da-…zzzzzzzzz.
Beep! Beep! The snooze button is sore now. Yet again, I roll over. This reminds me of a part in a favorite series of mine, the “Little House” series. I love those stories. Once, when the Ingalls family is living in town, they wake up, and realize their beds are covered in a thick blanket of snow! They’re warm enough, until they have to get up and get dressed. Actually, I know how they feel. Though I’m supposed to get up, I snuggle deeper into my covers, remembering the day I first read those books.
It was a sunny Thursday, and I was in Second grade at Valley Elementary. It was book order time. As everyone in school knew, today was the day boxes would be arriving, and books would be handed out, the same books that small hands had so carefully circled in the catalogues that had arrived last month. The air was crackling with excitement. Everyone was excited, but no one was as excited as me. This morning, my mother had told me that I would get a surprise in the book order. If you’ve ever been a Second grader, you’ll know how excited I was. Second graders love surprises. A lot.
At school, it was hard to think about anything else but the surprise. I knew it must be something incredibly amazing, because surprises almost always are. (Second graders are also very optimistic) Through Math, Language, Lunch, History, Art, P.E., I waited. There’s nothing quite like waiting.
When you are waiting, part of you thinks that it could come any minute, and the other part believes it’s never going to come. So thoughts slip in and out of your head, but your brain keeps returning to the omnipresent object of the waiting. It’s unpleasant, to say the least.
Fortunately, waiting almost never lasts forever. Just before school was out, Mrs. Johnson handed out the book orders. Actually, waiting isn’t all bad. It definitely makes the thing that you are waiting for much more satisfying when you actually receive it. Along with the two picture books I had picked out, there was a big box. Rectangular in shape, it is pale, buttery yellow with blue checks. It was heavy! As I turn it over, I can see the spines of colorful paperback books, nine in all. Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, The Second Four Years. They looked incredibly amazing. My surprise was here at last.
As I walked out to the parking lot, clutching my shiny, plastic-wrapped package to my chest, I spotted our purple minivan, and my mom sitting in the front seat. She looked excited, which doesn’t happen very often.
“What do you think?” she smiled. Her eyes sparkled a little bit at the corners.
“I love it!” I really did. I loved to read, and hey, it was a surprise.
“Did you know that when I was your age, we had those same books? I loved them so much. We all used to read….”
I miss Second grade
I suppose I’ll have to get up sometime. Even though it’s an hour and a half after my alarm started going off. As I get dressed and head downstairs for breakfast, I realize just how much those books mean to me, how the very quiet place they’ve held in my heart has been constant. As I glance over at that very same boxed set that sits on my dresser, I can see how each dog-eared page and worn spine tells a story of a little house, a blind big sister, a difficult job, a mean “friend”, and a gentle husband, each carefully crafted story burned into my memory. I can relate to those stories, once I get past the hog-butchering, butter churning, and one-room schoolhouses. Thanks to my mother’s idea six years ago, I have a best friend in Laura.
Although I’ve read hundreds of books since then, I still re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Although the coveted title of “favorite book” has been bestowed on many paper and ink friends, Laura will always have a soft spot in my heart. And no matter what’s happening in my life, those simple words can still bring back a part of me I’ve lost, the little Second grader who loves life. And surprises.
Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little grey house made of logs…