Raising Wilder, Part Three: Homecoming
This is the third of a four-part series. Raising Wilder is a Sapulpa-based television show built on the lives and experiences of Jason Wilder and Paula George, and their children as they work to restore family values through the adventures of living like his ancestors from Little House on the Prairie. “Raising Wilder” will begin airing on The CW, October 8th.
She’d been here before.
For three weeks after the event at the homeless shelter, Paula George had often returned to the questions that haunted her since they’d lost their baby.
What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?
Was it her job?
Did she get pregnant again too quickly?
Was she was just physically past her days of having children?
It could be all of them. It could be none of them.
Ultimately, she came to the realization that she may never know why her baby was never to be born, but she knew she had to learn to live with it. On the heels of that realization came another: she didn’t have to miss out on anymore memories with her kids or family. Now more than ever, her desire to have a strong relationship with her family became clear.
She and Jason were a blended family. Only Joanna was the daughter that they shared, but they both loved all of the children just the same.
What mattered most was enriching the experiences they’d all have together so that those memories wouldn’t get passed over by work or other outside influences.
She had to preserve those memories. Cherish them.
It was time, she decided, to get back to basics.
Back to Basics
Paula had a crew about to start on cleaning a facility 90 miles away. She called them and sent them to another project. She decided that she and her family were going to take on this challenge themselves. Maybe through a little dedication and hard work as a family, they could find the answers to what she was seeking.
Jason loaded the entire family into an RV and headed to the campgrounds 23 miles outside of Temecula, California. When they arrived, they weren’t sure what they’d signed themselves up for.
Rural and rugged was an understatement. Virtually everything required going somewhere else. Doing laundry required a walk to the laundromat down a path. Showering stations were down another path.
The campground was so remote that the only way to get cell reception was to hike up a hill.
It was perfect.
For the next several months, Jason and Paula chose to embrace the simpler life, forsaking all the conveniences they’d come to take for granted in the effort to find something deeper in their relationship with each other.
Showers were to be had at the rate of twenty-five cents a minute. For the first three weeks, Paula took cold showers. Every night Jason would exit the men’s bathrooms steaming, while she suffered under frigid temperatures. Finally she told Jason, “I’m not sure I can handled another shower like that.” Jason went to investigate. He came back and pointed out to her that the knobs were on backwards.
Over the next several weeks, more and more of the image that they had built up for themselves about what it meant to be successful began to fade away from the reality they were living. Paula removed her fake nails and stopped wearing makeup. Things that were previously “necessities” were disappearing: pedicures and manicures. Massages and chiropractor appointments. Where previously she’d had a housekeeper, she now had nobody but her family to lean on.
And lean on each other, they did. In the absence of wifi, the family played board games, basketball, hopscotch and jumprope. They hand-washed their dishes and cooked their meals outside. They went for long nature walks and ultimately grew closer together.
The further removed we got from commercialized life, the more we wanted out of it,” Paula says. “My kids had been around their Native side their whole life. We’ve done pow-wows and I tried to teach them about our culture, but this was different. It was like I went from teaching them through a book to actually living it.”
Paula says that as the days wore on, the intense sadness from before began to wane and she began to really enjoy the time she was having with her family. “I think these things were quietly showing me the way all along,” she said.
A new purpose
One night, after having cooked their meal out on the fire, she was sitting with Jason and just enjoying the moment. Their was coffee brewing, their kids were laughing and playing. A full moon shown above, and in the distance, a coyote howled.
A peculiar sensation came over her. Something she had not felt in a long, long time.
She’d spent her life reaching for the next, newest or biggest thing. Now, sitting in her camping chair and having worked their behind off for the simplest things, she realized how little so much of those other things had actually mattered.
Suddenly, another sensation came along: a desire to teach other people how to get back to simpler times and live like the Wilders.She began to see that if other families could create a memory together by having an experience like this, it would make up for a memory they’d lost with their son.
That would be his legacy.
She told Jason what she wanted to do:
I want to make this a television show. And I know exactly where I want it to be.”
Back home again
Jason Wilder and Paula George walked down Dewey Street in Sapulpa, where her grandfather had planted the trees there over 70 years ago. It was a magical place to Paula, and Jason was beginning to understand why.
Even past it’s boomtown days of oil and glass, Sapulpa had remained a community that retained a small-town charm. It really was “main street Americana”.
It didn’t take long for Jason to settle on it; this was home. The show would film in Sapulpa. Now they just needed to find a home to film it at.
Two days later, they had found it.
The house they settled on needed a lot of work. The roof was sagging, and the inside was protected by garden spiders. They’d arrived so late to see it that they had to peer through the windows with flashlights.
Sight unseen, they made an offer, bought the home and began remodeling. Paula called her parents and invited them to come see their new little house on the Sapulpa hillside.
The day they arrived Paula was walking through the home, dreaming about what was coming. She was crafting together stories in her mind when her parents pulled into the driveway.
She stepped outside to greet them and saw her father gazing around, looking at the home, and the yard, down the street and back at the home.
Dad, are you alright?” Paula asked.
Her dad turned towards her, a puzzled look on his face, mouth agape.
“I’ve been here before.”
Featured Image: Jason, Raymond and Dakota Wilder visit the gravestone of Almanzo Wilder.