Anonymous / Laura Ingalls Wilder
Physical comparison of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her present incarnation.
Although the present incarnation of Laura Ingalls Wilder agreed for HFR to use her photograph, she does not want her name revealed. This is her story.
I first encountered Laura when I was 7 or 8. I was given a copy of Little House in the Big Woods by my aunt, and with my mom's help I tore through it like a rabid dog. Every time my mom went shopping she would bring me back the next book and we'd read them together.
When I ran out of Laura's own books, I started with biographies. My favourite was Laura by Donald Zochert. In one of the appendices was a listing of the Little House sites. When my mom planned a driving trip to visit relatives in 1992, I noticed that our route back was going to go awfully close to some of the major sites. I begged, pleaded and cajoled until my mom agreed to make stops on the road so that I could see where Laura really lived.
It was in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, that I had a strange experience. My mom and I were the only ones at the site of the Ingalls' family dugout house (described in On the Banks of Plum Creek), or at least if there were others there, I sure don't remember them. We went from the parking area and crossed the creek to the dugout site. I remember nothing of my mom after that point. Istood in front of the dugout site, reading the sign, and then I just started to walk along the creek banks. I don't remember where I went, I don't remember what I saw. The whole thing is a blur now. It was as if someone else was directing me. My mom said later that it was as if I was having a religious experience.
And life moved on. Laura wasn't really a part of my life after that for a very long time.
When I had my first child, a daughter, I always thought about all of the books from my childhood that I wanted to share with her when she was older. I was a big fan of L.M. Montgomery, so I always wanted to share her books, as well as Laura's.
Late last year I had my kids at the library, and I was looking around the kids' section while they looked for books. I don't remember why, but I went and looked for Laura's books. My copies were boxed away somewhere, and I didn't know when I'd ever manage to get them out, so I picked up Little House in the Big Woods, and my daughter and I started reading it together at night.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose, who may have returned as well.
Reading the books again brought back all of those old obsessions. I started reading everything I could get my hands on online. That wasn't an option twenty years ago. I found out that Laura has a very rabid following of varying authenticity. Some only know what the television series was about (which is vastly different from Laura's actual life.) Some know every minute detail of her life, as far as anyone knows the facts. This past month there was actually an academic conference all about her, held at a Minnesota university. I read all of the books again, and when I ran out of Laura's own books, I started on the biographies again. It was then that I started seeing the parallels between our lives, but suddenly, one night, looking at a photo of Laura in her late teens, I noticed that we looked alike. I took a photo of myself from around the same age, and put the two photos side-by-side. It completely threw me.
You see, I've always been sort of agnostic when it comes to the paranormal. Not an unbeliever, per se, but I wasn't really convinced, either. The whole thing didn't seem possible to me. That was when I went for another opinion.
Laura was born February 7, 1867. My oldest daughter was born February 6. She died on February 10, 1957. Throughout my pregnancy I told everyone that my daughter would be born on February 10.
Almanzo died October 23, 1949. My "half" birthday is October 24. I realize this sounds like a stretch, but for some reason I've always had a connection to that date, so to me it makes sense.
Laura and Almanzo were married on August 25, 1885. One of my best friends was born August 25, 1975. Her name is Laura.
Laura's daughter Rose, was born on December 5, 1886. My husband's birthday is December 4th.
Caroline Ingalls died on April 20, 1924. I was born April 24th.
Carrie Ingalls died in 1946, a few months after my mother was born.
Laura's unnamed son was born in August, although the date is unknown. My first son was born in August, as well.
Other weird coincidences: I was reading a Laura biography earlier this year. The day that I read about Pa's death was June 8th. Pa died on June 8, 1902.
Laura and Almanzo's first home together burned down. I have been terrified of fire my entire life, and the first house that my husband and I lived in together burned down.
Laura's parents were Charles and Caroline. My in-laws are Charles and Carol.
There was one other incident, and I still don't know what to think of it. I'm taking this verbatim from the blog I use to try and get my thoughts straight about all of this.
I had a very odd experience this afternoon. When I was looking for pictures to use in that last post, I came across a fan's photos of the monument to the Ingalls family - baby Freddie, in particular. The monument looks like it has a plaque of some kind, and apparently there is also a copy of Freddie's death certificate there.
I don't normally pay that much attention to South Troy, MN, because there aren't any real "sites" there - no one knows exactly where the family stayed (they were there with Pa's brother Peter, who was married to Ma's sister, Eliza, and it seems that Peter must have been renting his home, since he doesn't appear on any land records.) No one knows where Baby Freddie is buried, either. That poor little boy is there somewhere, but it seems that we'll never know exactly where.
But today, I took a quick look at the photos. I was just interested, knowing that a copy of his death certificate was on the monument. For a split-second, though, or at least, that's how long it seemed to me, I blacked out, right where I was sitting in my office. It was the strangest feeling. I don't really know what it meant. I don't "remember" anything, and technically it's just a big rock. It's not an actual place from Laura's life, just the vicinity, but for some reason, it seems to bring out a strong reaction in me. Even looking at it now makes my head feel like someone is squeezing it.
I think it was an incredibly difficult time for Laura - and it must have been compounded later in life when she lost her own infant son. Maybe just the reminder of that time at all is just too painful. I don't know.