Growing Up With a Pioneer Girl

About a month ago, my grandma called me up and said, “So, I saw on Facebook that you liked something about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography coming  (Yes, yes, I totally did) and was wondering if you wanted it for Christmas?”

Before she could even finish the sentence, I was furiously shaking my head, even though I knew she couldn’t see it over the phone.

“Um, yes! That would be a dream come true!” I answered excitedly.

“Alright, that’s what you’re getting,” she replied.

So, a month and a half before Christmas, I knew what I was getting from Grandma. And I anxiously awaited the moment I could have Pioneer Girl in my hands.

If you happened to be one of my earliest readers back in the days when What is Past is Prologue was relatively new (hell, it’s still relatively new, but I mean, it was even newer in September) you’ll recall that I wrote a post about the top ten books that have influenced me. In this post, I gush about my love for the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. These books were some of the first full length chapter books that I ever read as an early reader and I very quickly fell in love with them. I received a boxed set of the first five books in the series early on in elementary school (minus Farmer Boy, which my mom insisted didn’t even matter because it was about Almanzo, not Laura); I got my hands on the last three books soon after. I read the accompanying series about Rose, Laura’s daughter, as well as a few of the books written about her mother and great grandmother. I dreamed of going to De Smet, South Dakota and Mansfield, Missouri, both locations where Laura lived during her lifetime. I watched reruns of the TV show religiously as a child (despite the fact that it is terribly historically inaccurate and also terribly depressing given that someone seems to die in every other episode…I still loved it). I finally made it over to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, a location where the real Laura lived briefly and where the entirety of the TV show takes place, this last summer before heading to D.C. This was a childhood dream come true (though, truthfully, it wasn’t that amazing and I probably would have enjoyed it more as a child).

Simply put, Laura Ingalls Wilder made up a huge part of my childhood.

So, getting my hands on Wilder’s recently released annotated autobiography is super exciting for me. This was the autobiography she wrote before the children’s books. The autobiography that was rejected from multiple publishers. The autobiography that initially didn’t get anywhere and that instead caused her to turn to writing what would eventually become the nine children’s books that she would eventually published. Though in many ways similar to the autobiography, these nine books rosied everything up; the bad, the ugly, and the unfortunate were kept out or brightened up in order to be appropriate for a younger audience. Pioneer Girl, then, shows the characters many readers have grown to love through the Little House series in a more human light. Readers will see these beloved characters’ faults and their imperfections. Laura certainly didn’t live a charmed life growing up on the prairie, and Pioneer Girl will undoubtedly make that abundantly clear.

After a quiet Christmas home yesterday morning and an afternoon get together at my aunts yesterday afternoon, my family drove down to Iowa today to celebrate Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My aunt and her family are also here, joining our family at my grandparents. We opened our remaining Christmas presents today, which included Pioneer Girl from my grandparents for me.

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So excited to immerse myself in these pages

While I was holding Pioneer Girl in my hands, I felt like I was not only holding history itself, but also a part of my childhood–revisited and revamped for a new stage of my life. With Pioneer Girl, I am taking Laura and her story, such an important part of my childhood, into my adult life.

I think that’s pretty cool and I can’t wait.

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