The Power to Go Back

Happy Groundhog Day!

Let’s put aside for a moment Punxsutawney Phil and the science of shadow forecasting.

Instead, picture Bill Murray, an alarm clock and the sounds of “I got you babe.”

Because I’m rewinding time and starting over–all the way back to penny candy and sun bonnets.  Well, sort of.

Let’s go back to the beginning of my blog and see.




I loved Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid, so reading Wendy McClure’s book, The Wilder LifeMy Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie was like catching up with dear friends.

In fact I was reminded how much LHOP played a role in my own life as I remembered along with Wendy about bonnets,  Plum Creek, the sod house, and above all the spunky, carefree, adventurous spirit that was Laura.



I did too.  I admired Laura’s pluck, her spunk, her spirit.

Once when someone commented that I looked like the Mary from the television show, I actually felt insulted.  Okay so my hair was blonde and I was the oldest of four siblings, but I did not want to be the bossy, know-it-all (although that characteristic probably fit too).  I just wanted to be carefree and adventurous, like Laura.

But I felt a kinship with both girls for many reasons.  After all, I knew what it was like to share a bed with your sister, and to move a lot (my dad was in the Coast Guard).  Plus, I think we were the last family to buy a color TV (1984!!).    We were practically a frontier family.

prairie family coleen patrick


Don’t let my parents fool you–they may have dressed the part, but they did not appreciate my attempt to clear out our backyard shed to make my very own prairie house (not even after I dressed my youngest sister in prairie garb to complete the effect).

 And twelve years later, my mom would bring this hat as a gift for my first child, so I wonder if maybe that gift was less my LHOP sensibility and more of my mother’s, as evidenced in the following baby picture of me :

baby Coleen Patrick bonnet_opt




I think the best thing I learned from LHOP was that the simplest things make us happy, like those jars of penny candy in the Olson’s store, or a retweet or a yummy grilled cheese sandwich (even if nowadays it has to be gluten and dairy free).

Even seeing a pile of freshly picked cucumbers from our tiny garden gives me some sort of odd, geeky, perhaps prairie thrill.  But it’s the stressful times that really bring out “my bad, prairie self”, because that’s when I find myself longing to burrow deep into some mythical cabin in the woods.  My sister E and I call this my Grizzly Woman status (she even gifted me a grizzly bear keychain).

The good thing is you don’t have to go all the way to Walnut Grove to experience LHOP nostalgia.  All you need is a little connection, like reading Wendy’s book or re-reading the LHOP series.  Because of course we always carry the power to go home within ourselves, right?  Like Glinda the Good Witch said (to another girl from a Midwestern prairie), “You’ve always had the power to go back . . .”

It’s as simple as clicking your (bare foot) heels.

What simple things make you happy?

I’d love to know!



40 thoughts on “The Power to Go Back

  1. Pretty much any food I love makes me happy. So does hanging out with a friend, or relaxing on the couch with a good book. All simple things. Oh, and sunshine. Man, that makes me smile!


  2. I LOVED all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books – read them over and over! My sister and I used to build “log cabins” like Pa out of the firewood, and tie our hair with rags to make curls like Laura and Mary. I longed for a sunbonnet 🙂 When the TV series came on (even though they were about the furthest thing from what happened in the books!) we waited eagerly for 8 PM Monday evenings… even though our bedtime was 8:30 and my mom made us turn the show off halfway through every single time!!! Ah, the simple days 🙂


  3. Robins chirping outside, having the windows open in the house, and streams of sunshine and the occasional nice breeze filling the room all bring me to my happy place.


  4. What simple things make me happy? What a great question!

    Sunshine on a Saturday afternoon once all my chores are done, the lawn is mowed, and all I have to worry about is which book to start reading while I lounge outside.

    Sweat pants and my fuzzy blue bathrobe.
    A perfectly brewed cup of coffee.
    Watching my dog dream.

    The list is endless. Thanks for asking because I’m now smiling on an otherwise foggy and dreary February day.


  5. I originally hated LHOP. It seemed like our parents wanted to watch it and it was just weird. Years later, I fell in love with the stories on each episode. The other day, I saw Melissa Gilbert in an entertainment news article. She looked a lot more complicated than her LHOP days.

    Simple things: a pile of stuffed animals and my son’s giggle over the word “oops” in a picture book top my list today.


  6. Ooh… I adore LHOP, too, Coleen. Its eternal optimism and appreciation for the “simple things” are lessons we can carry through life for sure. Since the Ingalls lived in Minnesota, a bunch of small towns have museums and festivals in their honor. My sisters and I dressed up in prairie outfits and visited some of the sites a few times. People thought we were part of the show. LOL

    Happy Groundhog Day! Hopefully I don’t post this comment over and over… 😉


  7. My girls love Little House on the Prarie. Our life in the country was very simple and seemed to resemble it most days. Now, closer to the big city, the simple things are sometimes hard to find. Simple things for me are fishing off our dock, watching the wildlife with my kids, cooking, and gardening.


  8. Oh, what a love walk down memory lane. Your daughter was so cute in the bonnets. I’m still am a sucker for the Hallmark reruns of LHOP! I read all the books as a child, but was older when the TV show appeared — but I still watched. Also felt the same way about Anne of Green Gables. I love that simple period in time. And, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, so that time also was a much simpler time to live. Polls have shown people were happier at that time. They owned a house around 1500-1800 sq feet, had a single car garage, owned one car, a black-and-white TV etc. Most mom’s didn’t work in the 50s. But, as kids we had run of the entire neighborhood as everyone was our “mother.” No preschools or daycare programs — just lazy summers to read and visit the library or bookmobile, and swim.


    1. When my kids were younger I often thought about how different my summers were compared to theirs. Even when I didn’t send my kids off to day camp activities there were no kids hanging around outside for them to run off with–times have changed so much in that regard. :


  9. This blog post isn’t a simple thing, but it made me happy, Coleen. I like it when one of my daughters forwards a link to an article she thinks I should read, when a friend suggests lunch, and when my husband and I correctly predict which chef will be sent home on Top Chef. (Not happy it was Grayson last night, though.)


    1. I really should start watching Top Chef the night it airs. Ha ha. No harm though Pat, because for some reason I can’t even picture which one is Grayson. Probably because my husband and I tend to have nicknames for the cheftestants. 🙂


  10. Great post! I loved it! I LOVED LHOP. I read every book and have them still. I watched the show. My great-grandmother handmade me an outfit…she did not know LHOP and probably did not have it in mind when she made said outfit, but she made it nonetheless. It looked like a dress straight off the prairie. Laura would have worn it. I had a matching bonnet, and a twin outfit for my favorite doll.

    Simple things – the taste of my mint chocolate chip gum lol, retweets, yes always make me smile, thinking about my yummy breakfast tomorrow and my popcorn tonight. I love popcorn. Thinking about it makes me smile. LOL


  11. Don’t get me started on when a 10 year old me saw the blind school burn. That was traumatic. lol. Simple things that make me happy: listening to the Met on Saturday afternoons and listening to the quiet on Sunday mornings.


  12. Who doesn’t love LHOP? Thanks for taking me back, Coleen! Some simple things I love are a hot bath, a good book, the kind gestures I’ve received from cyber-friends and looking at the sky on clear, starry nights.


  13. I didn’t watch that series much but I remember it was good. How fun was this post and I love that bonnet. I love the simple things to like a good dog walk and a bar of chocolate. Have a great day 🙂


  14. OMG, most of my life I have been OBSESSED with LHOP! This post was like, written for me. I just bought Mcclure’s book too. Can’t wait to read it. She did what I dreamed of doing. 🙂


  15. I loved both the TV show and the books! Read them all, multiple times.

    Little things? Driving to work without getting stopped at most of the lights makes me smile. As does getting there without getting stuck behind pokey people! LOL Can you tell I like to drive fast? That’s something else that makes me glad to be alive – or cruising at any speed on my motorcycle!


  16. I think the closest I have been to LHOP is reading Melissa Gilbert’s memoir. (It was good!)
    Having something to look forward to makes me happy. I love knowing I have fun things planned for the future….in fact, I’m looking forward to a spring break casino trip next month! Woo hoo!!! 😉


  17. I love watching birds. I love when the hummingbirds get brave enough to approach the porch for a taste of sweet nectar in the feeders I hang from the eaves. And when the little wrens take baths in the fountain on my patio. I love the teeny tiny baby quail in the spring how they dart around in the yard next to their momma. What can I say, I love to watch the birds!

    I used to dress up in prairie clothes too. I even had a sun bonnet and pinafore. Good times!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  18. I love sitting outside on the veranda but only if it’s summer. The rest of the year is far too cold up here, which makes summer all the more precious. 🙂

    Wow, the memories, Coleen. LHOTP ….


  19. I don’t remember much about LHOP, but I know we watched it all the time. Simple things? Hugs from my kids. A compliment from my husband. Sunsets. Stormy skies where the clouds are a mix of wispy and fluffy. My dog when she snuggles next to me. A long walk through the woods (we don’t live anywhere near wooded areas, so I have to drive for this one, but it’s always worth it). Dinner with friends. The beach.


  20. Groundhog day is one of my favorite movies and it’s my husband’s favorite movie.

    I loved Little House on the Prairie. Did you know Shannen Doherty was in the later episodes? I think she played someone named Rose.


  21. I’m in Maui right now and standing in warm sun, watching the waves come in and go out is absolutely wonderful. it reminds me of my relative importance in the world (little) and that life happens – in and out. love it. thanks for the walk down memory lane Coleen


  22. Is Louise for real? She is commenting on her vacation! Is that normal I ask? We love you Louise!

    Coleen you have got to be kidding me? No color TV until 1984? I thought our household was bad. But really?

    Okay, Little House on the Prairie was an amazing series! It’s the way I wish my life was now. Simple. No phones, TV, etc.

    Wait! I don’t have a TV. Oh and can I tell you how much we don’t miss it! It’s wonderful.

    I appreciate a good simple homemade meal. Dinner with my husband. Visiting with my two sons. Great friends. Reading a good book. A beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Life is good! 🙂


  23. Little House on the Prairie was my first favourite book! I loved Laura. Thanks for bringing back the good memories.

    Simple things I enjoy … looking out at brilliant green trees (made lovelier under a grey sky), a cup of coffee, a good book, and when the heart slows down.


  24. The sound of my children’s laughter.
    The whole family crowded in the kitchen, everybody cooking together.
    Snow falling outside — me inside with a hot cup of tea, a soft blanket and a good book.


  25. I loved LHOP! But I remember feeling disillusioned when I saw a picture of the real laura ingalls wilder and thinking she looked nothing like the girl in the television series! LOL


  26. For fun! I loved this show and the books. I can’t help but laugh about you clearing out the shed to make your own prairie home. That sounds like something I would do. How fun!

    Happy Groundhogs Day!


  27. Can we be any more soulmatey? I used to dress in a long white nightgown in the winter (polyester, of course) and hold an electric light carefully down the hallway so it wouldn’t “spill”. Re-reading the entire series was my winter break tradition.


  28. This was an amazing post that really took me back in time. I loved the LHOP series and wonder why they don’t make TV shows like this anymore? Simple things I love: spending quiet time in the company of my dogs, a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, wiggling my toes in the sand & listening to the waves roll in, solo kayaking any large body of water, a good book, thunderstorms & rainbows, sitting by a fire, a walk in the wilderness … and great blog posts like this one!


  29. I so remember ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and it came up recently when I discovered that they also watched it here in France all those years ago. I teach english to 4 french bus drivers and one of them said something that made the others laugh so much they started to cry – turns out it was ‘I remember Laura Ingalls’ and at first I didn’t get what was so funny, seems its ok for these ‘firemen type’ macho drivers to remember ‘Happy Days’ but ‘Little House on the Prairie’ shows a little too much of your soft side. He went on to tell us that he often cries watching movies (more so than his wife), a very touching moment and a bit of a cross cultural insight for me. But I LOVE that they all grew up watching those shows too!


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