When I was younger I enjoyed reading the stories about Pioneer women and their families--both true stories and fiction.
I was endlessly fascinated by all the hard labor these women had to do on a daily basis. Like how they had to carry their water from the creek and boil it to perform basic tasks such as washing clothes and cooking. I loved how they wore bonnets and rode around in Horse buggies and stagecoaches. Shopping at a mercantile sounded like so much fun. Everyone had a defined role in the family, children included, and at the end of the day the family would gather for the evening meal around a wooden table they built themselves. No one family member moved far away and everyone gathered together often. People helped each other without question. The comeraderie intrigued me; it all seemed so fullfilling and worthwhile somehow.
While reading these stories, I wanted to be them. I could almost feel the hot prarie wind blowing across my sun-drenched skin, I could smell the fire burning and hear the kettle simmering, I could hear the rythmic galloping of horses feet--you get the point. I was immersed in these worlds throughout most of my adolescence--yes I was a goody goody in many ways, but it did not matter. Give me a fireplace and a pioneer book any day--even today. The conclusion of a book I had been completely swallowed up in was like the passing of a dear friend. Sometimes, if it was an especially long book or I had become "attached" to the characters, I would be depressed for days after reading the last page and feel ..well, lost.
My favorite series then was Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series, which ironically is now being made into movies. I have read those books hundreds of times. Their covers are tattered, their pages bent and worn. Call me wierd, but I refuse to watch these movies, so attached am I to my coveted memories of all the characters and their faces in my own mind. If i were to sit down and watch these movies, part of my youth would slip away never to be seen again the same way and I just couldn't handle it!
Now grown and a mother to my own four children, I ponder what it must have been like in those times when women had nothing at their fingertips--even had to make their own soap for washing, had to work hard for anything and everything--everyday, had many children to tend to at once (not to mention birthing them without pain relief)while performing all of their daily hard-labor tasks, sometimes spent months without husband while he left in search of work, had no access to medicine when one of their children became ill,etc.
If I were to sit down and read all these books again as a mother, would I still wish to be raising my children in the pioneer days? Would I trade all the comforts of now for that simpler, seemingly more rewarding way of life? Conversely, could a pioneer mother/wife last in today's society with all of its comforts but also with the associated dangers? Perhaps not.
An interesting experiment it would be for certain. To take just one day and try to do what we have to do everyday (washing, cooking, tending to children) without any assistance of electricity, running water, medicine, TV, refrigerator, etc. In fact, given the arrangement of our world we probably could not even do this experiment without traveling outside the city to a remote cabin somewhere...but, how interesting it would be to challenge ourselves.