LHOP inspired fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.
Charles and Caroline had just finished moving Carrie up to the loft. Now only Baby Grace would be downstairs with them.
“Would you like some coffee?” Caroline asked Charles.
“Sounds good,” he replied. Charles glanced up at the loft.
Caroline knew what he was thinking. “It seems strange without her, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does.” Charles walked over to the kitchen window and looked out, as if he expected Laura to walk down the road at any minute. “We already went through this with Mary. You think it would be easier this time.”
Caroline smiled at him. “It never gets easier, no matter how many times it happens. It’s just not the same when one of your children leaves the nest.”
She brought Charles his cup of coffee and motioned for him to sit down with her at the table. Caroline brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “She married a good man.”
Caroline reached over and put her small, white hand on top of Charles’s much larger and darker one. “Once again, we know how our parents felt when we packed up and left the Big Woods. We’ll get by it…just like we did when we left Mary in Winoka.”
----- ----- -----
After sipping his coffee, Charles told Caroline he was going out to work in the barn. He only stayed there for a few minutes before he walked down to the creek.
From the kitchen window Caroline had seen him walk across the yard. She spied him as he sat down in Laura’s favorite thinking place. Her heart ached for him. Laura and he had always been so close. She prayed that God would help him accept the changes life had brought.
Charles sat along the creek bed for about twenty minutes. It was no accident he sat in Laura’s special thinking place. He would often join her when she was younger and share some fatherly advice. Now he was replaced by Almanzo Wilder. She would go to him for the advice she needed. Charles admitted he felt sorry for himself.
He knew he was being silly. It was natural for a young girl to grow up, fall in love, get married and cleave to her husband. But somehow he had hoped Laura, his Half-pint, would wait a little longer.
Charles looked up at the sky searching for guidance. “You know Lord, it was hard for me to admit Mary had become a woman who could survive on her own without her Ma and me. But after a while, I accepted it.”
Charles felt tears forming in the corners of his eyes. He blinked them away.
“With Half-pint I fought the battle against her growing up every day. I always wished I could keep her a little girl forever. But before I knew it, she was a young woman and a teacher, and being courted.”
Charles stopped praying to let the tears flow. When the last tear fell, Charles stood up and grabbed a smooth, flat stone from the ground. He skimmed it across the creek. ‘Laura had so loved to do that when she was younger,’ he thought.
“Lord, I feel like I’ve lost my little girl. We have always been kindred spirits. I always understood how she felt…and she understood me too. How I am going to miss those picnic lunches and fishing trips. Lord, please help me to accept these changes in my life and help me learn to appreciate the grown Laura as much as I love the young one. Amen.”
Charles sat back down and looked out over the cold flowing water. A few moments later he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder.
“Hi Half-pint.” Charles turned his head to look back at her.
“Hi Pa.” Laura pulled up her skirt and sat down next to her father. “What are you doing out here?”
“How grown up you are?”
Laura smiled. “I never thought I would hear you say that.”
Charles cupped her chin in his hand. “As much as I hate to admit it Half-pint, you’re a woman now.” Charles looked down at the ground to hide his tears.
Once he recovered from his emotions he looked up and said, “What are you doing here? I thought you and Almanzo would be busy at the house.”
“We just finished getting Eliza Jane’s things together. She’ll send for them once she’s settle in St. Louis.”
“Almanzo had to go into town, so I figured I would come out here and spend some time with you. Almanzo will pick me up on the way back.” Laura paused. “Pa, can I ask you something?”
“How long did it take you and Ma to get used to being married?”
Charles smiled. He had thought his days of passing out fatherly advice to Half-pint were over, but here she was once again looking for him to share his wisdom. “Quite a while. It’s a big change going from being your own person to being part of a couple. You’re not having problems already are you?”
“No, it’s just that Almanzo and I have different opinions on things and sometimes I feel I have to give in so we don’t argue.”
Charles let a little laugh escape from his lips. “I know you have strong opinions Half-pint, but there’s nothing wrong in giving in every once in a while. Marriage means a lot of compromises...if you want it to work.”
Laura reached over and hugged him. “I’ll try to remember that. Thanks Pa.” Laura reached for a smooth, flat stone and stood up. She tossed it towards the creek and watched it skim the water.
Charles had been so preoccupied with all the changes in his own life, he had forgotten how many changes his daughter was going through. And he found even though she was a grown married woman, she still needed him. Charles looked skyward and silently thanked God for answering his prayers.
Caroline had been watching from the kitchen window. “Thank you Lord,” she said as she wiped away tears of joy.