We had dinner out the other night. That’s “out” as in outside – in the playhouse. The husband built the playhouse when our children were preschool age. It has served as a fort, a bank, a drive-thru, a bakery, a jail, an orphanage and sometimes even as a playhouse.
All of the preschool grandchildren have been immersed in the “Little House on the Prairie” books. A couple of them were here and thought it would be fun to eat in the playhouse, which to them looks a lot like the Ingalls’ cabin.
Pa strapped on his boots, I secured my apron, and the little ones began darting between the big house and the little house carrying supplies, swinging lanterns, toting dishes. One of them dropped the tableware, but since we don’t have livestock in the backyard we said, “Just pick it up, it’ll be fine.” I carried out a Dutch oven of spaghetti and wondered if Ma ever made spaghetti.
We squeezed around the little table and thanked God for hot food on a cold night. Then the milk spilled.
Ma dashed back to the main house for an old flour sack for cleanup. Actually, Ma grabbed a roll of paper towels. Paper towels would have revolutionized homesteading. If I am ever a homesteader, I will need paper towels.
Ma returned with an old Brawny flour sack, sopped up the milk and sat down just as the flame in one of the lanterns went out.
“Maybe we can make do with one lantern,” Pa said.
“But it was better with two,” the girls said. You wanted to Little House rough it, Ma thought. Ma kept it to herself. However, Ma did suggest that Pa show the kids how to rub two sticks together to make a flame to relight the lantern. Pa shot Ma a look. Ma wondered if Charles Ingalls got testy in the Big Woods.
Ma shoved back from the little table, crawled out through the little door and headed back to the main house for stick matches. Ma returned with an extra large Aim ’n Flame. This happens when you send a 21st-century woman to do a frontier woman’s job.
Laura, or maybe it was Mary, spilled spaghetti all over her jacket and thought she was messy. “Messy happened a lot on the prairie. Pick it off, and throw it back in your bowl. The Ingalls family did that all the time.”
They seemed satisfied.
Everyone was hunkering near the lantern, seeking a bit of warmth, when wildlife announced itself.
“Hoo! Hoo!” rang in the dark.
Laura and Mary’s eyes nearly popped out of their heads. We opened the shutters and looked around. Nothing but a crescent moon tucked behind a thin strand of clouds.
Shivering, we gathered our dirty dishes. Ma grabbed the lanterns, Pa latched the shutters, and we all headed for the main house. No owls, but we were welcomed by light, heat, plumbing and more paper towels.
It was good to homestead. If only for dinner.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.