Dear Laura Ingalls Wilder,
Many years ago I sat cuddled up next to my mother and older sister on our comfy old sofa, listening to her read your words from Little House in the Big Woods. We used to pretend that I was the fiery, rambunctious Laura, and that my older sister was the polite, docile Mary. My older sister was the perfect child, with thick gold hair that curled just right. I was the �little half-pint of cider half drunk up' with dirt-brown hair that ripped her pocket by being greedy and taking too many pretty pebbles. I was the selfish one who wanted to keep her Indian beads for herself. My older sister was the kind, unselfish one who gave her beads to baby Carrie, and always wore her bonnet tied properly under her chin. As I listened to the story, I remember being astounded at how similar I was to Laura. I, too, even at my young age, felt like I was always the second best. As a second child, I understood perfectly what Laura was going through, how it seemed like her older sister was always right, and how I couldn't ever be as perfect as she was, no matter how hard I tried. A few days after finishing Little House in the Big Woods, my father informed my family that, like Laura and Mary, we were moving.
A few months later, I watched our house in Odessa, Texas, slowly recede into the distance. I had Little House On the Prairie sitting in my lap. I started to cry, thinking about all my friends I was leaving behind. Although I hadn't been born in Odessa, it was the only home I remembered. I didn't want to move. It wasn't fair! Then the cover of the book resting on my lap caught a glint of light, and I glanced down at it. Laura and Mary didn't cry when they were told they were moving; they just listened and did as they were told. I shouldn't be sad. Laura and Mary couldn't even take everything with them; we had two large moving vans following us, and we could take everything we owned. Also, we were in a nice, safe, comfortable mini-van, unlike the hard bench seats of a covered wagon. I opened the book and looked at the pictures. Even though I couldn't read most of the words yet, I still found comfort in the story.
Three years later, I once again found myself standing in my room, packing a backpack with supplies for keeping me entertained on the long way to my new home. I couldn't believe that we were actually moving to Alaska! What an adventure. I thought back to how surprised I was when my dad informed us once again that we were moving, except this time much farther away. As I scoured my bookshelves for a good read, my eyes landed on Little House in the Big Woods. It seemed like a lifetime ago when I had been comforted by the pictures on those pages. I flipped through the book, and a wave of memories rushed over me. I gently slipped it into my backpack.
As I stared out the window of the airplane, bored, I suddenly remembered my book. I pulled it out and started reading. Immediately I rushed into the world of long, long ago. I smiled as I read the tales of Laura; it was like reading the diary of a childhood friend. I realized that even though I could now read the words on the pages by myself, I was still comforted by your story. It had moved with me from house to house, and never let me down. I sighed and read on.
Recently, seven years after our move from Texas, I heard my mother reading your Little House in the Big Woods to my younger sister. I found myself being drawn away from my popular fiction girl-meets-boy novel, to the same old couch where I had first heard the tales of the Ingalls family, from the same, albeit less torn and dog-eared, book. As the familiar words washed over me, it was like a time capsule in my mind was opened; images of when I was younger began to swim into my head. I saw myself ten years ago, then seven years ago, standing in front of strange new schools in strange new towns, thinking that if Laura could be brave and go to a new school, so could I. I saw myself �reading' from the pictures, taking comfort from them. I realized your books have been my best and most faithful friends. They are small enough to put in a backpack, but large enough to hold the memories of countless years. They never got in fights with me, or stopped talking to me, or deserted me for the �cool' crowd. They were always there when I needed them most. They helped me to understand that I wasn't the only second child who felt a little jealous of her older sister. They helped me to know that everything will be all right, no matter where you move. For helping me to understand that I am not alone, I thank you.
Kenai Central High School, Kenai, Alaska
Teacher: Susan Nabholz