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Sari Boren’s essays have been published in Copper Nickel, Lilith Magazine, Alimentum, Hobart, and Pangyrus, among others. She teaches creative nonfiction at Grub Street and co-manages Boston’s Four Stories reading series. Sari is also a museum exhibit developer who’s written exhibit text for dozens of museums across the country. Read more at:


Boren's nonfiction, “Something Like That. Like Nothing,” was originally published in The Southeast Review Volume 33.2.


Something Like That. Like Nothing.

I’m taking Laura Ingalls down the home appliance aisle in Macy’s. She runs her hands across every shiny gadget on the shelves, poking at buttons and pulling on levers, her two tight braids bouncing against the shoulders of her pale blue gingham dress. Laura follows me as I walk past the toasters and crock pots, the cuffs of my Lee overalls dragging along the floor. I stop in front of an avocado-green blender.

“There’s a blade at the bottom, see?” I point. “It whirls around really, really fast.”

I’m the expert. I’m a couple of years older than Laura, who’s eleven. “You put liquids in, and ice cream, and you make drinks,” I explain.

Laura nudges me aside.

I see my imaginary friend Laura as the Little House on the Prairie television character played by Melissa Gilbert, fair and freckled, her teeth growing in crooked, her blue and white dress worn from over-washing. She wiggles the glass canister trying to figure out how to pull it off its base.

“What kind of drinks?” Laura asks. She pops the lid off the blender and peers inside.

I tuck the hem of my favorite pink and orange striped rugby shirt back into my overalls.

“Drinks you mix up,” I say. “Like milkshakes and smoothies.” I’m going to have to explain what a smoothie is.

“You shouldn’t have cut off your braids,” Laura says, out of nowhere. Like she doesn’t want me to tell her about smoothies. Like maybe she’s sick of being the one who doesn’t know the things I know. She shakes her head to make her braids swing.

“I told you. I couldn’t braid my own hair at sleep-away camp, remember?” I say. “I had to keep asking the counselor for help.”

When I’d cut off my braids, my thick, curly hair sprang up into an afro. My dad tells me how much he misses my long hair. I don’t look so much like his sister anymore.

“And those overalls are stupid,” Laura says, even though I’ve told her it’s what all the girls wear at my junior high. “I do chores in a dress. You don’t even have real chores.”

Laura does this sometimes. To show me that even though I know more than she does, I don’t know everything. But then she asks me, after all, what’s in a smoothie, and I explain it all to her.

Through my junior high and high school years we follow her questions into the World Book encyclopedia, from one gold-stamped volume to another. After I graduate college we huddle in the bedroom of my small apartment, Laura still in her gingham and braids, and me now rocking my on-trend big hair, sprawled on the bed in black leggings and an oversized hot pink shirt. I try to explain computers and semiconductors but I’m stymied by my poor grasp of electronics beyond simple circuits, so we examine my pantry instead, and I have to read the bottle’s fine print to explain hoisin sauce.

I am Laura Ingalls’ personal tour guide and interpreter to the twentieth century. I plowed through the entire series of Little House books when I was ten or eleven years old, and sometime thereafter, Laura showed up in my child’s mind, asking questions.