“The classy thing would be to burn it after you’re finished.” Many things came between “Little House on the Prairie”s Melissa Gilbert and her mother. Her 2009 memoir, however, may top their lifelong list.
At 44-years-old, television’s Laura Ingalls herself, Melissa Gilbert decided to put her life into book form. Her memoir, “Prairie Tale,” was indeed to be a tell-all. And for her Gilbert’s, Barbara Crane, this would be the “ultimate betrayal.”
“Little House on the Prairie” fans can guess, then, that there was a mountain of skeletons in this closet. While Gilbert often notes her and her mother were very close, the two shared a relationship that was “common” amongst mother-daughters, the actor notes. In short: with fierce love sometimes comes fierce “control.”
“My mother was nearly a month past her husband’s funeral when she turned her attention back to my desire to write a memoir,” Gilbert notes in “Prairie Life.”
The Laura Ingalls star didn’t just have a “desire,” but a full-fledged book deal in place. The memoir was happening, and her mother was furious with her.
“If the book were on any topic other than myself, she would’ve already been circulating word that “Melissa is writing the best book ever.” But this was different. It was about me. Which meant it was also about her,” Gilbert continues within. “And she was against telling that story if she wasn’t the one doing the telling.”
Astonishingly, the “Little House on the Prairie” legend reveals that her mother “tried numerous times” to talk her out of the book. This did not stop Barbara, however, from playing games with Melissa’s mind.
‘Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Gilbert: “The contempt and fear and anger she hid…”
“She showed up at my house one afternoon carrying a large box packed with news clippings, ads, letters, and diaries of mine,” Gilbert detailed in 2009. “She set it down on the kitchen table with a thud and announced with a smile as deadly as a pearl-handled Derringer that the contents would be helpful.”
“For your book,” her mother said. To Gilbert, it sounded as if she was “pronouncing the word ‘book’ as if were a Petrie dish containing the Ebola virus that I was going to let out in the world.”
Regardless, Melissa sifted through the box. It’s contents were “packed with sacred bits” from her life. All through their sifting, Gilbert says her “mother offered sly commentary and full-on reinterpretations of the contents.”
“Ah, the contempt and fear and anger she hid behind her helpful smile,” she quips.
For the “Little House on the Prairie” alum, who was 44 at the time, the book was a “search for truth and identity,” and would become a reality no matter what her mother threw at her.
To her mother, this was “the ultimate betrayal.”
To this end, Gilbert offers an exchange of dialogue between herself and matriarch Barbara. And nothing paints a picture quite like the words shared between mother & daughter.
“You can write the book if you want,” she recalls Barbara saying with a “nonchalant shrug.”
“Thank you,” Gilbert responded sternly. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“I can understand why you want to write it,” her mother continued. “You write it and get it all out of you.”
“Thank you,” Melissa said again, stone-cold. Barbara even offered her daughter her “blessing” after this second thank you. Her final words on the matter, however, would tell all:
“But… The classy thing would be to burn it after you’re finished.”
In the end, Melissa Gilbert won out, of course, and her memoir, “Prairie Life,” would become a much-talked-about hit – for better or worse.