The falling leaves are bathing Vermont in antique gold, and lately I feel as though I’ve entered a malfunctioning time machine that teases me with glimpses of the past. Leaves and, soon, snow are coming to cover the painted yellow lines on the asphalt, camouflaging the trappings of the twentieth century. But this only heightens my curiosity, not about the recorded history of the area, but about what life was really like.
In some ways, our off-grid, out-of-the way life gives us unique peeks into an older lifestyle – we heat and cook with wood, we grow and put up some of our food, we hang all of our laundry on the line. But every time I pop a tube of roll up cinnamon buns or hamburger helper in my shopping cart, I wonder how ye old housewives managed to do all of this by hand.
I loved the Little House books when I was a kid, and Farmer Boy, the one about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband, Almanzo, as a boy, actually took place not too far from here – you can visit his homestead in upstate New York. The story of their family was fun, but my favorite parts were always the copious descriptions of how Ma and Pa put up a house, a garden, a bear they just killed.
It’s at this time of year when I’m freezing instead of canning the last goodies from the garden or when I’m nurturing my inner slacker mom in other ways that I most often think of Laura’s Ma, and the detailed description of Almanzo’s Ma – the original SuperMoms – raising a sizable brood of super-obedient kids in nearly pristine houses stocked with food they grew and furnished with homemade furniture covered with homemade quilts. I don’t just wonder what it was like to be them, I wonder if there was something magical in the well water back then. I get exhausted driving my saucy kids (no idea where they get it) to school, bringing home part of the bacon, and trying to keep the house just neat enough to keep from being condemned.
I don’t yearn for life in that “simpler” era. I like antibiotics and being able to vote. But I would pay good money to know their secrets.