Guest post by Tatiana
The draw of Laura to me is the strong connection to nature and the flow of life – and as an aspiring writer, what a wonderful storyteller was Laura is. Here in part 5, from the very first words, we are placed in time and space and life’s cycle – “the wild geese were coming back from the southland.” Living in the city I have no natural marker for spring’s arrival; I rely on the calendar and accuweather.com. But here Laura’s sees and somehow knows that much will be coming with the return of the wild geese.
At first she doesn’t guess what is coming but then she writes…”a baby. So that was it!”. She is dizzy and her description so vivid, I felt her dizziness, I felt her “creeping around the house, doing what must be done…” I remember feeling tired and not quite right when I was pregnant too. I was with Laura as she tries to keep at her chores. And I felt her constant worry. But never worry about herself – only disappointment that the house is dingy and the trees not growing as they should. I felt her confinement at not being able to go out like she used to and when she was finally up and about, her joy at seeing the wild roses. And when she said, “It will be a girl and we will call her Rose,” I could see her with Manly and him nodding his head. I recalled how I too knew I would have a girl when I was pregnant and how I knew what I would name her. The tenderness in that one sentence showed how much Laura was ready for the baby, and how much she wanted to see hope all around her for the family’s future.
The rains were plentiful, the wheat and oats grew. I was swept away with Laura and Manly’s happiness – “He laughed and Laura laughed with him.” I admit though when Manly went for the binder, I began to worry. It was $200, which meant more debt. And I could see Laura was getting perhaps too excited – but so honest about it, so trusting. And all those exclamation points in her writing, “It couldn’t be! Yes that was right! Why, they would be rich! She’d say the poor did get their ice.” As she continues with her mental arithmetic and all they have to repay and even throws in that “she’d almost as soon have had a mortgage on Manly,” I began to really panic. Laura’s impatience and hurry to have the crop in is palpable. Is she turning a bit greedy or does she now realize how much she has to lose before the baby is born?
I would have loved to hear more about the DeVoes visit. As a plot device, they serve to show the scale of the storm damage when it comes, but it would have been nice to hear Laura talk with a friend and here a different side of her voice. The focus however stays on the severity of the hailstorm – a neighbor down hit by hail and all the wheat collapsed. Can it be right that all Manly said was “It’s got the wheat I guess” while Laura could not speak? Is he trying to keep his sanity with the statement, “And now let’s make some ice cream…You stir it up Laura and I’ll gather the hailstone’s to freeze it.”? I can’t quite figure out his reaction. Is he being strong for Laura so she won’t be so disappointed? Does Laura want to remember him that way? If it were me, I would have cried profusely or perhaps had some choice words about the weather. Something about the responses seems too constrained. Or is part of being the pioneer, the readiness for great loss as well as great gain? They do acknowledge and tally the losses and…“Though plans were wrecked, the pieces must be gathered up and put together again in some shape.”
Both Laura and Manly had endured hardship before. But nature and life continues no matter what. Winter is coming and a baby too. The one thing that bothered me in the accounting was that Laura did not know about the five hundred dollars debt on the house. It didn’t seem right that Manly would not tell her something as big as that. It also didn’t seem like Laura to be put off by all the numbers. Or maybe that is just my perception of Laura. For such a strong person, numbers should not be a problem. Especially as she was intimately involved in all they had to be done to salvage the first year and start again. And start again they would on the homestead claim shanty.