Guest post by Sue Poremba
When my daughter married six years ago, it was a quiet affair in front of the justice of the peace with only parents, siblings, and grandparents in attendance, and a garden party afterwards. We planned that wedding in less than a month. I’m still not sure how we made it all work – and we didn’t have to hand-sew dresses and sheets and underwear.
The chapter Haste to the Wedding, Ma and Laura are working double time to finish the black cashmere dress that Laura will wear on her wedding day, a dress so complicated that even though I’ve read this chapter dozens of times, I’m still blown away that it could be finished in a matter of days. It took me a full nine-week marking period to make a jumper that required nothing more than sewing the seams – and my mother still had to help me finish it.
The part of the chapter I like the best is the packing of the trunk and the bundle. It is a subtle nod to the other books, to the other parts of Laura’s life that we got to see. Charlotte and her clothes. The Dove-in-the-Window quilt. The goose-down pillows. The glass boxes. The red-checked tablecloth. Even the calf Pa hitches to the back of Almanzo’s wagon.
When I was a little girl, this scene made me wish for a hope chest, and I’d look around my bedroom, wondering what I would want to bring with me to my new life. When the time came, I remember packing, very gently, the stuffed animal that I loved as much as Laura loved Charlotte. The quilt my great-grandmother made for me. Special presents. The Christmas ornament that would connect my new tree to that of the trees of my childhood. Laura’s packing is a universal theme and perhaps it is the scene that shows the true closure of her life as only a daughter of Ma and Pa.
This is a quiet chapter, a reflective chapter. It ends with Laura asking to hear all of the old songs from her childhood, the last time we readers “hear” Pa’s fiddle. Laura is wistful. We are wistful. This is the point where Miss Laura Ingalls ends. In the morning, she’ll be Mrs. Laura Wilder. More importantly, we are saying good-bye to Pa and Ma, even though we will see them one more time in the next chapter. But we will never see them quite the same.
I wonder how many times during the making of the wedding dress, Ma thought about the “dress in black, wish yourself back” saying and worried about Laura’s future. I never got the impression she liked Almanzo very much. Of course, we know that Laura and Manly were married for a very long time – and through those hard times, I wonder, too, if that saying ever entered Laura’s mind.
When my daughter married in haste, she too wore a black dress and I thought of Laura’s and Almanzo’s wedding. Maybe there isn’t anything to those old sayings.