Laura Ingalls Wilder and I are best friends.
After she time-travels to my world, I’m the first person she meets; therefore, I am her guide.
I don’t want to overwhelm her, but I know my room is going to seem pretty awesome. I know she always had to share, so a whole room for just one person is going to seem extravagant.
This is my bunk bed, I say modestly. She takes in the fact that I get my choice of beds, and nods. These are all my books, and my pencil collection. You can choose one, if you want. Laura Ingalls Wilder ogles the brightly colored, unsharpened utensils but declines. Maybe later, I say, generously.
I’m dying to take Laura Ingalls Wilder into the kitchen, but I don’t want to send her into shock. The refrigerator alone might kill her. The disposal? Too soon. We amble down the hallway, and I suddenly realize, oh my god, the bathroom. Flush toilet.
Here’s the thing – I really want to be able to explain how everything works. But I realize I have no idea, really, how anything works. You flush it, and it goes away. How and where? Unknown.
We’ll skip that for now, I tell her. I hope I sound confident, yet comforting, as she makes her way in this modern world. I try to imagine life without these mundanities, but find I can more easily imagine traveling in a covered wagon.
Oh. Do you want to change your clothes? I ask. No thank you, she says, staring at my school portraits lined up in the hallway. That’s me last year, in fourth grade. I point to the oval with me wearing my purple sweater vest. She nods. Are you sure about changing? I persist. Because that calico dress just seems…hot. She’s sure. And that’s okay. It’s what Laura Ingalls Wilder is comfortable in.
So we arrive at the kitchen, and I try to think of ways to introduce appliances as to demystify them. I decide to start small. This is a toaster, I say, hoping she’ll recognize the root word. Toaster, she tries out, carefully. Yup, I continue cheerfully, you stick the bread in, push this down, and after a little bit, toast comes out. If you wait too long, it’ll burn. I demonstrate by loading two pieces of bread into the toaster and depressing the button. Laura Ingalls Wilder peers into the two rectangles and gasps when the heat elements brighten. Is it fire? she asks. Kind of, I say.
I’m getting excited, so I decide to just go for it. And this, I intone grandly, this is a refrigerator. Laura Ingalls Wilder looks at me, but doesn’t attempt to repeat the word. I open the door with a sweep and wait for her reaction.