In a conversation with my sister-cousin, Nicole Kohls, this weekend, talk turned to Little House.
Now, Nic is one of the cousins, along with her sister Sara, who regularly played with my sister, Tracy, and I when we were small. Games often included long-ranging arguments over who would make the best Mary, who should be Laura, and why Sara (the youngest) should be Grace–even though Grace rarely got to do anything. I also remember distinctly asking their maternal grandmother (we’re related through our fathers) how to pronounce “challis,” in order to more accurately portray going to town while playing “Plum Creek” in her farm house.
Nic now has two sons, both reaching that “tween” stage, and each of whom has a distinct personality. The older, Nathan, loves his books and games, drama, music, and Scouting. Tim, the younger, has a sturdy build suited to athleticism. He enjoys the outdoors, and he likes to go running with his father. He’s sort of a boy’s boy, destined to be a man’s man.
This past winter, Tim’s reading teacher asked the children to read a book of their choice that could be considered historical fiction. The long-term project involved a final presentation/book report in which the child had to dress as the primary character in the story.
Tim had to think about his book choice. In a discussion with him, Nic suggested something from the Little House series. What do you think about Little House in the Big Woods? she’d ask. Or Little House on the Prairie?
He thought about it. “Mom,” he said. “I don’t want to dress up like a girl.”
That’s why he chose to read Farmer Boy.
For his presentation, Nic helped him find homespun brown pants at a local thrift store; a red-striped dress shirt; suspenders; straw hat; and boots. Tim wanted to go barefoot, but in a Wisconsin February, bare feet are ill-advised. They also came up with a whip, using a handle made of bamboo fishing pole with a braided, black yarn tail.
He was a hit.
And it turns out, he likes the other books in the series, too.
He just won’t dress up like a girl.