Guest post by Daniel Rabe
Mary’s summer visit is about over, she’s heading back to college on Monday. So this chapter is Sunday, and Laura decides to spend it with Mary, and not take the usual Sunday afternoon drive with Almanzo.
In the morning, they go to church with Pa, as Ma has decided to stay home with Carrie and Grace, for it is a hot day. Of course Laura and Mary dress up for church, and Pa remarks that he is not “spruce enough to beau two such fine looking young ladies to church”. The term “beau” is just not in vogue nowadays, but it was back then, and is quaint.
I find it interesting that often Laura tells of her feeling that Reverend Brown’s sermons are not at all interesting. One wonders what kind of content he used in his messages. Another church related comment by Laura is that when they could not find three places together, Pa sits with the graybeards in the “amen corner”. This says that in this church, it was alright for them to say “Amen” to an item in the sermon, although I don’t imagine it ever coming from Laura!
Laura does such a detailed job of always describing the dresses, and here she is again telling about hers and Mary’s dresses down to the smallest item. We know that earlier she had described that hoops were in fashion in ladies dresses, and this becomes important as she relates an amusing incident in the service that morning, one which was more interesting than Reverend Brown’s message I’m sure!
A kitten wandered into church and after playing in the front near the pulpit, is chased by a dog! Apparently pets were not forbidden in this church! So the kitten finds refuge under Laura’s skirt, and begins to climb up the inner rings of her hoops! Laura stifles her laughter, but is silently shaking, and being hushed by Mary. The kitten escapes, not discovered by the dog, and after church Laura tells them the funny story, so that even reserved Mary had to smile.
I find it kind of fun to contrast the things about the church and compare to today. They had to dress up nice, when many churches now have gone to casual dress code. Some like Mary were very reserved, while Laura admits that she was never interested in Reverend Brown’s sermons, and as far as being behaved in church, was a “hopeless case”, finding amusement in the kitten. However, we do know that she always had to at least know the text of the message to report to Pa and prove she was listening.
In the late afternoon, Laura and Mary go for their walk, and it will be the last one, for Laura will be married before long. Mary is lamenting that things will not be the same, but Laura is trying to assure her that she will be able to visit Laura on Almanzo’s farm, where there will be trees, and sunsets. Mary asks if Laura might put off her wedding until next June, and Laura, in a premonition to what happens, says “it will be just the ceremony, anyway”. How many young ladies now would be seeing their wedding that way? My thought is that Laura is viewing it through the lens of there not being a wedding. But Laura quickly tells Mary that she is ready to get married now, for she is 18, and is done teaching school, having done three terms, and wants to be settled in their own home. Besides, she had earlier said that she and Almanzo seem to “belong together”. Now, when Laura wrote this book, remember that is was 60 years after the events, so she had all of those years to know that she and Almanzo did indeed belong together.
At this point, we can see that Laura is not looking back at the past as much as forward to the future. She closes this chapter by telling Mary that “maybe the times that are coming may be even better. You never know”.