What Would Ma Ingalls Do?

Monday, August 15, 2005


Yesterday I spent the day with my extended family, all farmers, children or grandchildren of farmers in northern New England. It struck me that it has been the women in my family who keep the families going, they were adept in the art of readiness. They stood as a reminder of how much WE can do. Though times have changed so much in the last few generations, poor farmer families are lured to all that mainstream America claims to offer. While many of my mother's cousins grew up knowing what to do they have turned their backs on it for the sake of convenience, therefore their children and grandchildren have no idea how to make do when the occasion arises.

So as with many things lately, I got to pondering what would Ma Ingalls do if she lived in today's society? Would she have been enticed by the lure of the millions of commercials and ads which bombard our culture every moment of the day? Promising an easier and more fulfilling life? Would she be living the the hills of (add state here) living off the grid and away from the mainstream?

I think Ma would be somewhere in between, like many of the contributors here, trying to find a happy middle ground that provides peace for herself and her family yet supplies them with the necessities they need without taxing the environment or their pockets. This is on my mind quite a bit now that winter creeps closer, my house is not outfitted to depend on anything other than petroleum products and that sickens me. My SO is the model of complacency, he lives in the land of denial and comes to reality only when bills grow overwhelming and then he is horrid to live with. Because of his denial I am the one who must take charge, prepare, plan, stock and ready this home and family for winter and high prices. I've lived very poorly before and struggling through cold New England winters struggling to make ends meet and not get too far into debt (if at all) until Spring comes and offers a reprieve is a rough place I care not to revisit.
So this all has me asking, once again "WWMID?" What choices would she make?

I think that she'd prefer being home and raising her children, modern society offers conveniences that even in an off the grid style, would free up time for Ma. I think she'd be enamored by the internet and would find a way to make it work to her benefit. Perhaps through an ezine to share her recipes, skills, knowledge and opinions. Or she would be a writer from home, for one of many magazines or newspapers out there. This last idea is actually one which came from a dear friend and one I cannot take credit for.

She would be proficient in home maintenance, home arts of yesteryear, she would use her skills in sewing, cooking, maybe gardening to provide a modest supplemental income. Perhaps she would teach herself basic plumbing, carpentry, etc. to do what needs to be done.

She would reuse old clothes that could not be tailored down to fit each subsequent child, they would then be remade into quilts, rugs or a patchwork dress. Worn sweaters would be unraveled and the yarn reused. She would be proficient at 'reduce, reuse, recycle'.

She would eschew prepacked, processed foods which offer convenience but also a multitude of health issues in favor of foods and ingredients that she has made ahead and prepackaged for cooking ease.

These are a few of my ideas, I'd like to see other's theories.


At 11:07 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

I'd like to think she'd be somewhere in the middle too. The more I think about her though, the less I feel like I know what she'd do, at all. Her portrayal through the eyes of a child really obscures her motivations to me. But, I still love and admire her and enjoy working on the mystery!:-) And I love hearing all the ways she makes us think.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Molly said...

Great question! I think it it'd been up to Ma, they never would have left Pepin (the little house in the big woods). They were self-sufficient and comfortable there, with lots of family not too far away for support. Throughout the years Pa is always promising her riches, a new dress, a team of horses. . .notice how she never answers him?


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