Gretchen Rubin

“Now Is Now. It Can Never Be a Long Time Ago.”

“Now Is Now. It Can Never Be a Long Time Ago.”

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, the final page of Little House in the Big Woods

What a masterpiece this book is! And how I love the illustrations of Garth Williams.

This quotation has special meaning for me. That phrase, "Now is now," has haunted me my whole life. As a writer, my specialty is endings (I'm really good at writing endings, if I do say so myself), and the last few pages of Happier at Home is probably the best thing I've written in my whole life. And it's all about this passage from Little House in the Big Woods, and the meaning of "now is now."

From the final page:

As I walked up the steps to my building on that spring afternoon, and looked up at the windows of my little apartment in the big city, I reminded myself, "Now is now." And I know what the child Laura did not yet know. Now is now, and now is already a long time ago.

I remind myself, every day: Now is now.

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