It was while watching the children of Frontier House evolve that I came to understand the quivery beast inside me. All my childhood I had felt useless. Logan and the gang were necessary; running the farm was a full-time job. The girls had to milk the cow or there was no milk. Not only that, the cow was a huge family investment. Being in charge of the cow was a big deal. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything worth more than five dollars. Desperate to get my hands on items of value, I would rifle through Mom’s jewelry box or finger Dad’s change on his dresser. Then I got in trouble.
It seems unrealistic that a modern child could ever delight over a used fur muff and few oyster crackers for Christmas the way Laura did. I know that if Santa had brought me nothing but a penny, a tin cup and a heart-shaped cake, I would have hurled these items at my parents and run off in tears shouting, “I wish I was dead!” Here was another Frontier House miracle: Once the kids had actual responsibilities, and isolation from all the twentieth-century “stuff,” their need for material goods evaporated. The girls no longer lived to primp. The boys no longer cared about video games. I had always thought my parents ruined my life because they didn’t buy me enough Ralph Lauren Polo shirts in ninth grade, but maybe what I needed was a paradigm shift. My weak suburban ass needed to learn where meat came from. If I had, maybe I would have become an adult who could confidently order a piece of cake without melting down in crisis.
I probably don’t fit the demographic at all as to whom this book is “for” but I don’t give a damn. I loved it, and I’m not even a LIW fan. I am a fan of pilgrimages, of love for books and writers having huge influence on our lives, and of people not afraid to do whacky and daring things. There are some eery similarities in the life path that Kelly writes about, and my own, right down to connections to the music that roared out of Seattle in the 90s. Her insights into her own life certainly resonated with me, and being a fan of the solo road trip — and well aware of its common, recurring loneliness — I found this book to be equal measures fun and depressing. In a good way. Sort of. Anyway, I’m glad I met Kelly (at the Montana Festival of the Book, two encounters that, in retrospect, were all too brief) and picked her book up “as the right thing to do when you meet a writer” because I enjoyed the hell out of it. As I closed the cover for the last time, I was truly sad our road trip together was over. Recommended to dreamers, self evaluators, and people who aren’t all that interested in growing up.