Little House in San Francisco

at 12:35 AM

I'm standing in the kitchen, throttling a mason jar filled with cream. For the first 30 seconds, it's easy. But after five minutes of shaking, I'm out of breath and exhausted.

I look down at my daughter, who asks, "Is it ready?" I wheeze, "Not. Yet."

At this, Emmeline mopes out of the room, and I want to call after her, "Some prairie girl you are."

We've been making our way through the "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The sparse, elegant prose and the magical tales of homesteading in wild America have cast a spell over us both. We got so into the series that we started making crafts straight from the books: jonnycakes for dinner, maple sugar for dessert. We made our own butter by shaking cream until my arms fell off.

Emmeline's eyes grew wide one day. "Hey I know!" she said, "Let's go shoot a bear!"

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Aside from the fact that we don't have a rifle, that San Francisco has probably outlawed hunting expeditions and that I would most likely find myself mauled, it didn't seem like the most efficient use of craft time. Still, reading about Pa and how he built log cabins, dug wells and shot all manner of dinner, Emmeline has come to the conclusion that all fathers have secret pioneer skills, hiding behind a patina of laptops and iPhones.

I can craft a toy out of corn, sure, but when she begged me for deer meat, I found some in the frozen food section of Whole Foods. I opened the freezer door and thought, "Does this make me a hunter or a gatherer?"

I was beginning to feel sorry for my woeful lack of survival skills, wondering if technology has made us soft, then it occurred to me that if Pa ever heard of a Google or a Yahoo!, he'd probably circle the wagons. One afternoon, Emmeline asked if I could build her a playhouse, and I immediately thought of a small structure made of cardboard and tape. I told her to gather the supplies, believing I was man enough for this task.

"But daddy," she began, "I can't cut the logs all by myself."

With a Perspective, I'm Mike Adamick.

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