We all know Laura Ingalls Wilder as the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books. The Little House books were autobiographical, with Laura recounting stories from her childhood living in Kansas and Minnesota, experiences with Native Americans, and more. In 1911, a little paper called the Missouri Ruralist invited Laura to become a contributor years before her classic children's literature was published. Pretty soon she was regularly contributing with stories about the Ingalls family, her own life, and more.
In 1916, under the name A.J. Wilder, most likely a nod to her husband Almanzo, Laura wrote about one particularly notable Thanksgiving day when she was living in South Dakota. You can find the full article, "Thanksgiving Time" here, courtesy of PBS via Pioneer Girl. It's a friendly reminder this year and every year to be thankful, especially during the current difficult time dealing with COVID.
In the column, grown-up Laura explains that during this time in her childhood, her family lived on the South Dakota frontier. The closest store or neighbors were miles and miles away so they mostly relied on their set of provisions to get through the long winter, set aside by her father, played by Michael Landon on the classic TV show. This particular holiday, her father rushed out with his gun to try and catch a goose for dinner, and Laura and her sister Mary immediately started quarreling about having sage in the dressing.
"I remember saying in a meek voice to sister Mary, "I wish I had let you have the sage," and to this day when I think of it I feel again just as I felt then and realize how thankful I would have been for roast goose and dressing with sage seasoning -- with or without any seasoning -- I could even have gotten along without the dressing. Just plain goose roasted would have been plenty good enough.
This little happening has helped me to be properly thankful even tho at times the seasoning of my blessings has not been just such as I would have chosen."
Even though this happened over a century ago, this simple example of a holiday in her childhood home is so relatable. How often have we come together as a family only to quarrel over cornbread, pumpkin pie, or cranberries instead of being grateful for the lovely Thanksgiving dinner you're enjoying together? It's become an unfortunately common occurrence in the American household, but this column serves as a reminder that we should be grateful for the simple things in life, simply being alive is a true blessing.
"I once remarked upon how happy and cheerful a new acquaintance seemed always to be and the young man to whom I spoke replied, "Oh he's just glad that he is alive." Upon inquiry, I learned that several years before this man had been seriously ill, that there had been no hope of his living, but to everyone's surprise he had made a complete recovery and since then he had always been remarkably happy and cheerful.
So if for nothing else, let's "just be glad that we are alive" and be doubly thankful if, like the Scotch poet, we have a good appetite and the means to gratify it."
For more lovely writings from Laura, you can find The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder here on Amazon. It features various letters from throughout her life including from her time as a country journalist and even notes to her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.