Today Is Laura’s Birthday

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Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday. I am looking forward to our birthday party in her honor at 1:00 p.m. Central time this afternoon. This is your official invitation to Laura’s party. You can register here. Our online parties and programs about Laura are the most popular online activities we host. I believe you and your children will enjoy the one we have planned for today. If you can’t be with us at 1:00 Central, you can watch it later, but you do need to register beforehand in order to do that.

At the party, Ray and I plan to talk a little about what Laura and her books have meant to our family.

In a sleigh at the Ingalls Homestead attraction near DeSmet, South Dakota.

On Sunday evening, while Ray and I watched a movie, I used lots of trial and error until I came up with a way to make fun figures of Laura and her family out of paper towel tubes. They are super simple to make. At the party, I plan to demonstrate making one of them, and you can download illustrated instructions.

Our customer service representative Donna has baked a yummy gingerbread birthday cake from Laura’s own recipe. We plan to show the cake to everyone and sing Happy Birthday to Laura. I’m sorry that your piece will have to be a virtual one. You can download Laura’s recipe, too.

Our son John plans to do what is sure to be the most exciting portion of the party. He plans to sing many of the songs that Pa played and the family sang, as Laura described in her books. Ray and I were excited to watch John sing some of the Ingalls’ favorite songs and tell about their lives at a library last July. Audiences always love John’s program about Laura.

Laura wanted children to know what it was like when she was a girl. She believed that hers was a story that American children needed to know. When she was 65, she published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods. She published her eighth, These Happy Golden Years, in 1943, when she was 76. I am very grateful for her foresight.

When Laura was 80 years old and a very famous author, she wrote a general letter to her young readers to answer some of their most common questions. In the letter Laura said, “I lived everything that happened in my books.”

She told the children about her life after These Happy Golden Years. She told about how she and Almanzo lived for a while near DeSmet (South Dakota) in the home Almanzo had built for her on his homestead. She told about moving to the farm they named Rocky Ridge (in Missouri). There they cleared fields and built their own home, using wood and stone from their land. They worked hard until they had a good farm of 200 acres. Laura and Almanzo had cows, hogs, and, according to Laura, “the best laying flock of hens in the country.”

In the first years after they moved to the Ozarks, they went horseback riding and buggy riding for fun, just as they had when they were courting in South Dakota. They read books, played music, and went to church socials. In later years, they took rides in their Chrysler automobile.

When they grew older, Laura and Almanzo traveled back to DeSmet to see old friends. She said they recognized faces everywhere, but they were surprised that their friends were old and gray—like she and Almanzo were.

In her letter to readers, Laura told of how she and Almanzo had been married for 63 years when he died in 1949 at the age of 92. She told about their daughter Rose Wilder Lane, who had become a novelist.

As in her books, Laura took the opportunity in her letter to talk about important things. She said that the real things haven’t changed. She spoke of being honest and truthful, making the most of what we have, being happy with simple pleasures, being cheerful, and having courage when things go wrong. She said that the reason great improvements had been made in living was because every American has been free to pursue his happiness. She said that as long as Americans were free they would continue to make their country more and more wonderful.

During her long life, Laura experienced many changes. She traveled on a covered wagon when she was a girl; when she was 87 years old, she flew on an airplane to visit her daughter in Connecticut. Laura hoped she would reach the age of 90. She died at home three days after her 90th birthday in 1957.

Inside the small Bible Laura kept on the table beside her rocking chair was a list of Bible references written in her handwriting. The last one said, “And make Psalm 51 your prayer.” It begins:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1-2

We are continuing to publish videos and encouraging graphics in our Winter Cheer for Homeschooling Mamas. You can scroll to the bottom of the page at this link late this afternoon to see the video for today.

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