I spent 4 hours listening to the Little House on the Prairie audiobook this week while doing some work, and I am just bursting with some great insights! This is the book where the Ingalls family moves from their Little House in the Big Woods (of Wisconsin) and head west to Kansas in a covered wagon.
One of the main points that stood out to me was the family's ability to maintain a very normal lifestyle while traveling. They were basically on an extended campout, and rarely passed through any towns or saw any people.
Each morning they woke with the sun (if not sooner) and began the chores. Water had to be carried from the nearest creek for coffee and for washing breakfast dishes. The horses must be taken to water as well. Ma would begin making breakfast while the girls made their beds in the wagon.
Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie washed their faces and combed their hair and dressed nicely each day. After breakfast, Ma and the girls would wash and wipe the dishes and clean up the campsite. They would gather up all the twigs and throw them in the fire.
If it was a wash day, Ma would heat water that Pa had carried from the creek to do her laundry in. She would wash all the clothing and bedding, and then lay it out on the clean grass to dry in the sun. And then . . . gasp! She would iron. Out in the middle of the prairie, with no people and no towns, Ma sill ironed the clothes!
When the family gathered around to eat, Ma and Pa sat on the wagon bench, and Laura and Mary sat on the wagon tongue. They held their tin plates in their laps. Mary and Laura shared their tin cup of water.
There were times when Ma would remind Laura not to talk with her mouth full, or not to sing 'at table.' Laura thought to herself, "there is no table" but the rule held fast!
Mary and Laura must wear their sunbonnet while playing, to avoid becoming 'brown as an Indian.'
So, in the middle of the wide, wide prairie the Ingalls family continued to live as if they were in polite society. I think Ma felt so strongly that the wild country they were traveling in would not make her girls into wild hoodlums, that she insisted on living exactly the way they had back in their little log home in Wisconsin.
Contrast that with today. Every time I go into the grocery store I see at least one person wearing pajama pants and house shoes to shop. Or worse.
It seems that many people don't care. Simple grooming has become too troublesome for some. Table manners in restaurants (or at home) don't exist anymore. Children have little or no standards to meet regarding their behavior.
I'm not preaching the need for makeup and salon-styled hair, or drinking tea with your pinky stuck out just so, or even the popular "children should be seen and not heard" (although some days I have contemplated enacting that one).
But if Ma and her girls could maintain a gracious standard of living from their covered wagon in the middle of nowhere, is it too much for us to accomplish in our modern society?
I don't think so!