Guest post by Janet Sahni
This is a serene and happy chapter with everything falling into place.
Everywhere there is a theme of growth: town is growing so Pa is working there as a carpenter, the planted fields and garden are growing, the calf is weaned, even the kitty was big enough to catch her first mouse. Throughout it all is the idea that if you put in the time and the work, you will reap the benefits. Nowhere is this more evident than when they learn that Mrs. Boast is setting a hen for them. This generous gesture will save the Ingalls family a year in setting a flock. In our time of immediate gratification, where everything and anything you want can be googled and bought, it’s humbling to think about the years that are needed in order for the Ingalls to become mostly self-sufficient.
The only thing they can’t provide for themselves is getting Mary to college. Laura thinks about this as she hoes the garden and realizes she’ll have to push herself out her comfort zone by becoming a teacher. “Laura did not want to, but now she must” Such a succinct attitude that we could all benefit from when facing things we don’t want to do.
The chapter ends with with a contented, happy scene: “The day was ending in perfect satisfaction. They were all there together. All the work, except the supper dishes, was done until tomorrow. They were all enjoying good bread and butter, fried potatoes, cottage cheese, and lettuce leaves sprinkled with vinegar and sugar.” In contrast to that long winter with never ending cold, never ending struggle, and never ending hunger, how heavenly it must have felt to able to sit with full stomachs and have the door opened to the gentle prairie air. Laura even reflects on how wonderful it is that tomorrow will be just like today, setting the stage, of course, for the next big change in Laura’s life: working in town.
A scene I’ve always loved in this chapter: Grace (as any little sister can relate to) being unfairly blamed for tormenting the kitty!
One thing that always strikes me is Laura reflecting that Grace had never roasted a pig’s tail. For us, the difference between our existence and that of the Ingalls’ is glaring, but how interesting to think that even in Laura’s own lifetime, she was aware of how her own childhood differed so greatly from even her little sisters.