As I’ve often mentioned, I’m a gigantic raving fan of children’s literature. And one of my very favorite writers of children’s literature is the master, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read the Little House books, and I’ve also read The Pioneer Girl, and The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I’m dying to read the new book Prairie Fires.
When I was working on my book Happier at Home, I realized that Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the greatest writers about the idea of home. And the end of Little House in the Big Woods inspired the end of my book.
So here’s the final passage of Happier at Home. I have to say, of everything I’ve ever written, this ending is one of my favorite passages — plus, it quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder:
Just to hear the words Little House in the Big Woods gave me an overwhelming sense of childhood, of coziness, of the smallness of our lives in the vast forest. Once upon a time, more than a century ago, there stood one little house in the Big Woods, with pumpkins in the attic and a china shepherdess on the mantelpiece—and to the girl who lived there, it was the whole world.
And I thought once again of a passage that I had read countless times, of the sleepy reflections of five-year-old Laura, on the final page of Little House in the Big Woods.
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 cozy 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.
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.
If you’d like to read the whole book, you can learn more about Happier at Home here. I love all my books equally, but I will say that Happier at Home is my sister Elizabeth’s favorite.