A Knife in the Dark

I have happy memories associated with Little House on the Prairie and the other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some people seem to consider the books to be “girly” or fluff, but I think them to be a great read both for what they are and for the memories experiencing the books with family.

I was about five or six when my mother read the series aloud to me and my older sister.  The things I remember most from the story are 1) the kids using the pig’s bladder as a ball and 2) the snow fort and subsequent snowball fight.  But what I remember best was that while my mother was reading about the struggles of the Ingalls’ family, my father would quietly appear in the doorway behind her and mime the story–somehow even the most somber of stories was hilarious when depicted in that manner.  When my sister and I would burst out laughing, my father would disappear behind the corner before my mother could turn around.

A few years ago, while visiting my parents, I stole those same books (which technically belong to my sister) to share with my children.  We spent a few months of after dinner reading time working our way through the series.  The kids found the stories interesting and entertaining.

In order to carry on the tradition of silliness, and also to make sure everyone was paying attention, I would occasionally slip in a little bit of extra content.  Typical favorites would be to add “A Ghost in” at the beginning of a chapter name and/or append “of Doom” to the end.  So while reading These Happy Golden Years and not long after advertising “Sleigh Bells of Doom”, I read out the chapter title “A Knife in the Dark”.  Nobody believed me until I displayed the actual text.  So now that chapter (or at least the title) is probably the family favorite and best remembered both for the ominous tone and for the memory of disbelief.

Some may say that the “Little House” books are for girls, but to me they represent fatherhood.  For the stories about about the fathers in the books.  For the stories acted out by my father.  And for being a father with children dubious about a chapter entitled “A Knife in the Dark”.