There’s been a breakthrough in Laura Ingalls Wilder research. The grave for Rose Wilder Lane’s and Claire Lane’s infant son has been tracked down–in Utah, of all places, and the information, including the death certificate, is all over the Internet. (I don’t know who made the first discovery, but if anyone can share who, we’ll credit them here. Edited to add: the woman who made the discovery is named Melody Farnsworth, who posted it to the Facebook group Remembering the Real Laura Ingalls Wilder. Thank you Marilyn Bryson for the information!) It’s being treated as quite the breakthrough, and to everyone discussing it, it is.
But personally, I don’t know. Try as I might, I can’t hitch myself to that wagon.
Let me say first that this is me, Sandra Hume–not speaking on behalf of anyone but myself. (And as a reminder, anyone can submit a guest post for consideration on Beyond Little House–just send us an email.) And although I am a journalist, I am not a historical researcher. I don’t relish digging in historical documents to find that missing fact the way I’ll track down a health study or an elusive statistic to support the article I’m writing. I truly get that some people do relish this type of archival research, even enjoy it, perhaps the way I relish identifying a 1980s one-hit wonder I was sure I’d forgotten about or reading that beloved book for the thirtieth time. We all have our own interests, careers, and tendencies. I begrudge others nothing, as I’m sure they do for me.
So I’m an outlier. In fact, I’m an outlier in a lot of Little House ways. I’m not fond of sunbonnets, except on Laura, in a book, ideally hanging down her back, or on Melissa Gilbert circa age 12. I’m honestly not all that interested in history, and I certainly don’t want to live in pioneer times. We all find our own ways to Little House, and every time I try to talk about MY way, I end up finding myself in the doorway of a little house, passing through to the cozy kitchen where Ma is making cottage cheese balls with onions, and I don’t even like onions. Or I’m in the barn where Pa and Laura have that heart-to-heart. (Yes, the TV and book worlds, tilted this way, are often indistinguishable.)
For me, Little House is family.
Here’s the way I felt when I heard about this discovery: sad. I thought about Rose as a mother–a mother who had carried a baby through a pregnancy only to never be called a mother again. I thought about Laura, in her very early twenties, able to enjoy her baby boy just for a few short weeks before she lost him. I thought about Caroline, who lost a lively, robust, full-of-personality baby who was headed towards his first birthday. Again, a baby boy. And I thought about that baby boy’s siblings, who would ache from his absence for the rest of their lives.
I’m sure some of this comes from having had three babies myself, two of them boys, one of whom is not yet three. It also comes from me, perhaps, not fully appreciating the value of a truly historical find in the most unexpected of places. But I can’t celebrate it. I’m full of sympathy, and I wish these mothers, all three of them, above all else, peace. Privacy, too, but mostly peace.