Some ways that Laura has influenced my life are: her can-do attitude! In one of her books Laura talks about the devastating plague of grasshoppers that appeared in their area just as their crops were about to be harvested. Those crops would have been enough to pay their obligations towards their house, the farm machinery they had purchased, and provide them with food for the next year. Unfortunately, the grasshopper devoured everything. Instead of despairing (as I most certainly would have done!) Laura’s mother said that, “There’s no great loss without some small gain.” The small gain was that they wouldn’t have to buy chicken feed–the chickens were gorging themselves on grasshoppers! I try to keep this can do attitude when small disasters happen around my house. It’s immensely satisfying to find that small bit of good stuff in the midst of a giant gob of bad stuff.
Laura had a strong sense of family values. She persevered in several activities that she did not enjoy and sometimes detested in order to help out the family. From going into town and working as a seamstress to a very horrible first teaching situation Laura made sure that she finished everything so that she could earn money in order to send her older sister Mary to blind college in Iowa where she could learn to read again and learn other skills to help alleviate the darkness she lived in. Laura also spent a good part of her pre-teen and teenage years “seeing” or describing things for her sister Mary who had gone blind. I’ve gotten my sense of family values from my family, but Laura also inspired me to go beyond what would be considered normal.
Some of my favorite writings of Laura’s are her journals which were never published until after her death. My particular favorite is the one where she drove across country with Almanzo (her husband) to visit her family in North Dakota. She describes every penny they spent including gas, food, and their daily stop for ice cream! My mother encouraged me to start a journal as soon as I could write sentences which was about second grade. The beginnings were rough, but as I got older the stories of various field trips and other events were easier to write down. I am glad that she insisted because now I have detailed memories that I can go through and share some of my experiences.
Laura was an amazing person and an amazing author. As I reread her books (some of them almost yearly–particularly “The Long Winter” every July!) I find new ways to relate to her stories. Although she died just after she turned 90, her memory lives on through her writings!