Somewhere in the dreary descriptions of Pa’s hollowed-out cheeks and endless meals of nothing but coarse brown bread, it clicked for the kids. The Ingalls family was going hungry.
We’ve been working our way through the Little House on the Prairie series, with me reading a chapter or two aloud each night at bedtime. The books are favourites of mine and I’d read them aloud years ago, too. But now that the kids are older — five and seven — they’re listening intently and asking questions about what’s happening.
Up until this point, they’ve had questions about slates (“Why can’t we write on little chalkboards at school instead of paper?”), shoes (“Why are they going to school in bare feet?”) and blindness (“If we get sick are we going to get ‘blinded’ like Mary?!”).
But we just finished the sixth book, The Long Winter, which is the darkest one in the series. (Literally the darkest because they run out of kerosene).
Seven months of blizzards prevent the trains from running. There aren’t any supplies left in town, and the Ingalls family eats nothing but brown bread — made from wheat they pulverize in a coffee grinder — for months on end.
“So . . . they can’t just buy groceries?”
“No, guys. The grocery stores are all empty.”
“But . . .”
“I know. It’s very sad.”
Our children have never gone hungry, other than the evenings they flat-out refuse to eat their dinner and opt to wait until breakfast. They can’t imagine eating nothing but tiny helpings of brown bread for months at a time — bread made from wheat they’ve had to take turns grinding.
But the reality is that there ARE kids who are hungry — kids right here in Nova Scotia — and we need to talk about it …