Anna-Leena Harkonen


Leroy/Adobe Stock


Little House Revisited

Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite shows as a child, the television equivalent of a power ballad. I was delighted to discover that reruns were going be broadcast. I made sure I had the time and space to watch.

The disappointment!

I have aged, and so has the show. What a celebration of conventionality, a triumph of black-and-white thinking. Only Nellie Oleson gets to be mean, and she revels in that freedom.

THE MOTHER, Caroline, is still charming, but she carps much more than I remembered. Oh, dear. Laura is learning how to spit. What should we do?
Charles, the father, is more sympathetic and righteous than even the most immaculate characters in fairy tales. 

This was not a problem when I was a child; everyone was a Little House fan.

A friend’s mother sewed us the same kind of nightcaps that Laura and Mary wore. She made them from an old sheet, and they looked lovely, but we couldn’t wear our nightcaps to bed. They made us sweat, and the rubber band felt too tight around the head.

HURTFUL CONVENTIONAL attitudes are still surprisingly common. In the advice column of a magazine, a middle-aged daughter asked whether she should go see her mother, even if she didn’t want to. 

The idea made the daughter anxious because the mother had been abusive and had always disparaged her. Now the mother suffered from memory loss and lived in a home. The daughter was secretly relieved that she had not been able to visit during the pandemic.

The answer, by a psychologist, was chilling: the daughter should ignore her feelings. She should go see her mother and just sit there quietly and stroke her hand if the mother was unable to talk about anything. 

The underlying thought was: a mother is always a mother. You must not abandon her, even if she has abandoned you first, after a lifetime of abuse.

DOING WHAT YOU WANT is not that simple. We are controlled all the time, kept in line. What would happen if everyone refused to do things that make them anxious?

Might people be happier?

A relative of mine was repeatedly told she should go see a concert conducted by a friend. At first, she came up with creative excuses. Then she decided to muster the courage and stop lying.

“I don’t want to go,” she told the friend who had been asking her. She was never invited to concerts again, or any other events. When she chose herself, she was finally left in peace.

I DON’T HAVE the courage yet. If someone insists that we should go see a mind-numbing three-hour theater performance, I tell them I’m claustrophobic—which is a lie, and now they know. 

Perhaps, one day, I will have the courage to say the magic words: “I don’t want to.”

I have saved a few episodes of Little House for a rainy day. Maybe I will be able to relive that feeling of safety one more time.

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2022

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

This site uses AWStats to monitor visitor numbers. Cookies are not used.