I am Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am a bit of Anne of Green Gables too, because I came here, to New York, an orphan from the familiar. “’Sorry, it just isn’t working out,” they said while I was jetlagged, just back from a trip to the sunny, smiley and hard land, California. I thought they loved me out there. I felt brunette and foreign, but I adored the golden glow that saturated the air, the beach and salt spray that came off the Pacific Ocean. I stood with my toes in the Pacific that December, and I looked at the mountains,. I was further west than anyone in my family had traveled. I wanted to cry at the beauty and strangeness and distance of this place, but it was easier to laugh and photograph the glittering sun, so I did that instead. However, California was the golden idol constructed from time and tears and chasing perfection (not to be mine), so I got back on the plane beaming with compliments and sick from too much alcohol. How can they love me and leave me? Easy: “you are not needed,” they said, and hit the delete key.
I took my carpet bags of loss and moved to New York where the streets were paved with gold and “there were no cats in America,” they sang. I thought there were dreams and promise and beauty, but after three years, there came that glittery night when I was cold and broke and in love and I understood that my dream of living in New York had come true; I finally raised my voice for the solo above the ominous chorus and let it soar. It was time. If I didn’t leave, I’d end up another statistic, because a thirty-something woman is considered desperately hungry for things other than food. My heart is stronger than the artifice and other people’s visions of how life should be, so now I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m going west to the open air, to home. It’s different and I don’t know how to light that fire in the new hearth just yet. The logs are there and the space is ready but just a little while longer I have to keep that flame burning alone, cupping my hands around my heart until I can pass it on, this Olympic torch. I am skilled at protecting it from the winds, but now I’m going somewhere none of my family have been before; they’re giving me a few extra layers for these flickering, yet eternally enduring flames, to survive the journey.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was always my hero. Now I’m going to make her proud.