What Jenny's Reading

{November 4, 2015}   Review: The First Four Years, Pt. 2

Happy Wednesday!  I’m trying to update on some older stuff (I guess I still have some Nightfall to review???), so here’s part two of The First Four Years.

Christmas comes, and the families decide that they will do New Year’s at Laura and Almanzo’s. Almanzo makes hand sleds for Laura’s sisters, and they buy themselves a gift of a table set, from the Montgomery Ward catalogue. Laura says it came the week before Christmas, from Chicago, and they were really happy with it.

Hang on. Chicago. Remember in Pioneer Girl, when Laura says that her brown poplin dress was a gift from the “Chicago friends”? And how the footnotes had no idea who these Chicago friends were?

Did…did Laura think that “Montgomery Ward” was a person, and that he was her friend?

Anyway. I guess I can’t be too surprised by this revelation, considering she thinks their horses and other assorted pets are better friends than people.

Well, we can’t dwell on that right now! Because now Laura is pregnant with Rose. She has a difficult pregnancy, at least first trimester from what I can tell, with bad vertigo and a lot of morning sickness. She tries to help out because she knows that Almanzo needs help around the farm with the crops and all, and the house starts to get a bit dingy because she can’t care for it as she’d been. Ma apparently had a favorite saying “They that dance must pay the fiddler” and fuck you, Ma, is that supposed to shame her or something?

Laura gets through it, of course, because Laura is nothing if not a tough lady who gets shit done, and now Almanzo’s going to harvest their wheat and oats, and Laura is simply giddy at the idea that they might make nearly three thousand dollars from it all. I mean, they do have a bit of debt to pay off, but it’s definitely less than what they’ll get for the crop, and ha ha ha, I’m just fucking IMAGINING what horror is going to befall them this time.

Yep. I mean I didn’t even have to read the next page to know, right? It’s hail. A giant motherfucking hail storm that totally flattens everything for miles and miles around, and Jesus why don’t these people move since they’re clearly living on the outskirts of hell itself?

Oh, and this is when Almanzo decides to let Laura know they owe five hundred dollars on their house. Oh my God, this is just so fucking perfect I can’t even. It’s perfect misery. Next time I’m feeling sad about being underemployed and having giant student loans from fucking law school, I’m going to think about Laura and her hail and her flattened wheat.

Well. At least they can make ice cream, as Almanzo so cheerfully points out to Laura, since now they have all this ice! You know, maybe I’m a terrible person, but I distrust anyone who is that relentlessly cheerful and happy. THERE’S A BIGGER PICTURE HERE, YOU JACKASS. Are you going to pay your debts in ice cream? Fuck no. Get it together, Almanzo, for cripe’s sake.

Of course, because they are resourceful, Almanzo manages to mortgage the other homestead that he owns and sells some other things to see them through the winter. So they have to move out of the house Laura loved so much, so a renter could move in, since to mortgage the other claim they had to be living on it. He finished up the claim shanty and that has to be a giant fucking shock for her, moving back into a stupid shanty after all that time. I mean, even Pa was able to make a real house eventually.

And that was the end of the first year. Clearly things are going great!

At the start of the second year they move into the old claim shanty, and Almanzo is trying really hard to be positive about the whole thing. He’s fixed it up a bit so it’s now more like a proper house, with other rooms and windows and so forth, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as nice as the house they already had.

Laura tells us how she helps Almanzo with the haying, like she did Pa, all those years ago. I’m so happy that Laura at least got to do things she liked once she got away from Ma! I mean, yeah, she has to keep house because of stupid gender rules, but she wasn’t stuck in there and Almanzo didn’t force her to do things she hated. They ended up making about $120 from their hay, which is a far cry from the three thousand they thought they’d get, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

She goes into labor in December, and it’s the strangest labor description I’ve ever read. It seems to involve her just sitting by the fire, being quiet, till Almanzo gets worried and goes for Ma, and then for Mrs. Power, and then the doctor. It’s only then that Laura talks about all the pain, but even then it’s brief. I wonder if they gave her something to knock her out? My stupid internet isn’t working right now so I can’t look. Hopefully I’ll remember when I come back online.

Okay, yay me! I remembered to do this. Okay, so it looks like ether was pretty commonly used as an anesthesia, and it was also given to pregnant women as well. I had to go to a bunch of websites to find this, and I’m still not entirely sure this is 100% accurate, as most of the information seems to come from websites that say HOME BIRTH IS PERFECTLY SAFE ALL THE TIME, IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE. Which…no. Anyway, though, it appears that it’s possible that Laura was given ether or something.

And then baby Rose is here! Happy happy blah blah, seriously I’m like so tense right now, sitting on the edge of my seat, because Laura’s life has been so fraught with misery that I’m just WAITING for the next awful thing to happen. This happiness cannot last, I’m sure of it. We do get to experience her first bad parent shaming from Ma, on Christmas no less. It was a little cold but they decided to go visiting anyway, and Ma bitched her about that Rose might’ve frozen, even though Laura was really careful with the coverings for her basket. I guess this is pretty standard with all mothers when their daughters become mothers, right, though? I’d give Ma a pass if she hadn’t always been such a bitch before.

Oh! And then! The weirdest thing ever happens. They go visit the Boasts, and when the visit’s done they ask Laura and Almanzo to give them Rose. Like, for keeps, because they can’t have a baby and they figure Laura and Almanzo can. Hilariously, Laura tells Almanzo to leave so quickly it’s like they think Rose was in danger of being snatched up that very second. But what the HELL, Boasts? Why don’t you just back the fuck up for a second?

I was literally just typing “What possessed you to think they’d be okay with this idea” when I remembered that Mrs. Boast is Ma’s best friend. So probably Ma told her that Laura would do it, since Laura does whatever Ma wants. Not anymore!! So clearly Rose stays with her parents, and the matter is never discussed again.

Remember that time in Pioneer Girl, when that doctor and his wife tried to buy little kid Laura as a servant or something? People were really fucking weird about kids back then. I mean, they’re kids, not mini servants to do your every bidding once they can walk further than five feet without falling over.


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