Melissa Gilbert at Bethel Woods: July 2022

“A Love Story to the Area”
Melissa Gilbert at Bethel Woods
by Lily Barrish

BETHEL, July 2022 — Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ private lounge area, the Green Room, was overflowing for Melissa Gilbert’s author talk/book signing. A ticket to the event held on Friday, June 10 included light bites, a signature cocktail, and a copy of her latest book “Back to the Prairie.”

Released on May 10, the book is already a fan favorite.

Suzanne Morris, the senior director of museum education and creative programs, introduced Ms. Gilbert as “a new friend to our community.” Wearing a long flowy dress paired with cowboy boots and her own natural beauty, the former “Little House on the Prairie” star glided front and center, telling the audience she wrote this book as a love story to the area. A collective pride could be felt over the fact that the hometown landscape provided a place where in her own words, “she could age and be herself.”

Ms. Gilbert had just come off a three-week book tour in Manhattan. By day three she couldn’t wait to come home, she admitted to the audience, wiggling her manicured nails, showing that they were now broken and peeling.

“I love it,” she said, adding she cares more about gardening than vanity.

Initially it wasn’t her idea to write the book. However, she took to the idea after CBS aired a story on her living upstate and her literary agent said there might be something more to explore. So, she sat down at her kitchen table and began writing about how she and her husband, Timothy Busfield, “found a rundown hunting cabin with great bones and lots of acreage.” Recognizing the potential, they made the purchase and spent the COVID lockdown in the country. Sullivan County is currently their primary residence.

She hopes the book makes everyone feel less alone and makes people laugh.

“It was an adventure to write, and an adventure to share,” she said.

In the Catskills, she says, she figured out how to be still. She taught herself to knit and cross stitch and joked that she literally went back to the prairie.

A lively question and answer session followed her presentation, with the audience hanging onto every word after local resident, Rose DelBove, asked, “would you consider doing the show with Laura Ingalls’s grandkids?”

“Great idea! I don’t think I’m done with ‘Little House’ by a long shot,” Ms. Gilbert answered. Then she jokingly asked Ms. DelBove if she would sue her if the idea came to fruition.

That received a lot of laughs from the audience. The entire evening was breezy and joyous. Ms. Gilbert’s fondness for the Catskills was palpable, as was her graciousness.

While waiting to get her book signed, Ms. DelBove explained her thought process. “Seeing Melissa in her natural state reminds one of being younger, and now here we are as grandparents. Why not make a movie in today’s craziness that brings the ‘Little House’ story back to the next generation.”

At the end, Ms. Gilbert made a plea to support Bethel Woods, and gave her husband a shout out for his upcoming role in “Safe Home” at the Shadowland Theater in Ellenville from July 15 thru August 7.