I want to add to this tribute to Michael Landon, though I have not written a fan letter since I was twelve years old and am too embarrassed to admit who I wrote it to . . .
I grew up enthralled with the Little House on the Prairie series. I adored strong, wise "Pa." I was a child who didn't have that kind of a father role model. I used to pretend that maybe "Pa" could be my father. I remember we used to laugh at my grandmother who would telephone us after the "Goodnight, John-Boy" endings of "The Waltons," asking if we had watched it and wasn't it beautiful? (The irony is that I have totally become my grandmother as I choke up during my favorite episodes of Little House. This irony has not gone unnoticed by my adult siblings.)
I was in my teens/early twenties when the Little House on the Prairie series ran. I was familiar with the series; not a die-hard viewer at that time, though very nostalgic about my connection to the books. On my first trip to Disneyland with my two sons about ten years ago, I stumbled upon reruns of Little House on the Prairie. It must have been a special preview weekend, because it seemed like every time I turned on the TV in the hotel, Little House was on and I was delighted. At first my family laughed at me, but then they realized I was serious about this!
I know from what I have read that Michael Landon was primarily responsible for the crafting of this wonderful show, and wrote and directed many of the scripts. As a dedicated reader of the book series, I could not have dreamed that anyone other than Michael Landon could have made this series come so alive again for me. Even now, in my mid-forties, when I recite so many lines from memory and still laugh and cry at these so-familiar episodes, I feel Michael Landon's presence when I watch them again and again and again.
Today, I am a mom, teacher, and principal of an elementary school. I still watch this show almost every day. I own the DVDs from all the seasons available as well as the movies and know exactly when it is being broadcast on my local network. Michael Landon's intelligent, intuitive, and heartwarming adaptation of my favorite childhood memory is such a gift to me. I love to see his smiling eyes and sweet "smirk" as he deals with his girls' little and not-so-little tribulations. His hearty laugh still makes me laugh when I hear it. His tenderness with his family and his strength in standing up for what is right inspires me. We just donít have many role models with that kind of loyalty to family and community anymore.
I am sure that because of Michael Landon and Little House on the Prairie that I am a better person, parent, teacher and Christian. I feel very close to and grateful for everyone involved in this TV show. From being a pretty unhappy eight year old, I was gifted to be transported by these books and then by this awesome television series to believe in family, in community, in faith, in laughter and in hope. I still mourn Michael Landon's passing (he died from the same kind of cancer my father died from in 1977), and I am truly sad every time I hear another great person from the show has passed away.
Michael Landon and the cast and crew of this great show have truly inspired and have influenced the person I am today. Thank you.
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