We gathered around the table with a common goal: make it to Oregon. But would all six of us survive? It seemed doubtful. Embarking on our journey, we were optimistic, determined, hopeful. But as the dusty trail behind us grew, so did our doubts. The oxen were thirsty. Dysentery threatened. The wagon tongue broke. (Again.) The supplies we desperately needed couldn’t be replenished until we reached the next fort. One by one, family members dropped off. Starvation. Snake bite. Cholera. It was grim. Finally, Oregon Territory was in sight. Most of us had died, so it didn’t even seem to matter. One final move, and the last member was wiped out by dysentery. No Willamette Valley for us.
As we laughed and packed up the card game, relieved it was just that—a game—my mind drew pictures of what it might have been like, had these precious people of mine actually been crammed into a covered wagon. As a young girl, it was one of my favorite histories to study. The Oregon Trail: a path of romantic pioneering and adventure! I even wrote a story about it. I’m sure there was the occasional snake bite and stampede scare in my tween fiction, but no one died. I was likely more concerned about washing my cute calico dress and dancing with the rugged boy in the wagon circle. (And, naturally, I made it to the Oregon Territory, where he and I lived happily ever after.)
My kids were charmed by the “vintage,” pixelated look of the card game. (Apparently the 80s is now vintage.) It has a funny, old-fashioned charm to it, remembering the original Oregon Trail computer game we played once upon a time. When I think of the term “old-fashioned,” my mind initially goes to this Westward-Ho era. I envision a century or so of time between the 1840s and 1950s, give or take a decade, and any practice, habit, or mindset that took place during that window is considered “old-fashioned” to me. I’m sure we all have different pictures of what “old-fashioned” might mean, connotations that even determine whether we receive the term in a positive or negative light.
In the spirit of “The New Domesticity,” which is all about gleaning wholesome practices from the past and tailoring them for the growth and encouragement of today’s families, I recently asked some friends to share about “old-fashioned” ideas. It was interesting to note that their pictures of the past seemed to fall into three categories. They saw the highlights of days gone by in terms of simplicity, safety and spontaneity, values which, happily, we can still share with our children today.