Wednesday, February 06, 2008

These Happy Golden Years

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. 1943. These Happy Golden Years.

Sunday afternoon was clear, and the snow-covered prairie sparked in the sunshine. A little wind blew gently from the south, but it was so cold that the sled runners squeaked as they slid on the hard-packed snow. The horses' hoofs made a dull sound, clop, clop, clop. Pa did not say anything.

These Happy Golden Years begins directly after the close of Little Town On the Prairie. Laura is fifteen--a few weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday. She has been hired to teach school for two months. The school where she is to teach is for a community around twelve miles away. Pa is taking her to the place where she'll be boarding. She expects to stay there for eight weeks all on her own--homesick or not; miserable or not. The Brewsters--the family she stays with--are miserable company. Mrs. Brewster is one angry, potentially psycho woman. (I never could quite figure out why she's threatening her husband with a knife.) School is awful. She doesn't really like teaching at all. But the thing that keeps her going--the thing that surprises her week after week after week--is that Almanzo comes to take her home and back each and every weekend no matter how cold. These trips are often silent, but much appreciated.

But when the eight weeks are over, Laura is surprised that his courting--his wooing--continues. Rides in his sleigh. Rides in his buggy. He's an almost constant present every week.

It isn't just rides and courting, however. Laura is back in school, back with her friends, back with her family. Seasons come and go. Other teaching opportunities arise--which she accepts--none are ever as horrid as the first.

Without a doubt, my favorite gleeful, giddy-making chapter is "Barnum Walks."

"I was wondering..." Almanzo paused. Then he picked up Laura's hand that shone white in the starlight, and his sun-browned hand closed gently over it. He had never done that before. "Your hand is so small" he said. Another pause. Then quickly, "I was wondering if you would like an engagement ring."
"That would depend on who offered it to me," Laura told him.
"If I should?" Almanzo asked.
"Then it would depend on the ring." Laura answered and drew her hand away.

The next week...well, I don't want to spoil it. But I love it.

"It will have to be a little house. Do you mind?"
"I have always lived in little houses. I like them."

Anyway, it is a thoroughly enjoyable, perfect, perfect book.

289 pages


Sarah Miller said...

You know, that subtle understated courtship between Laura and Almanzo made me nuts when I read this as a kid, but now I think it's just sweet beyond all reason.

Dewey said...

These were my favorite books as a kid. I read every book in the series over and over again! I've also read some of them a time or two as an adult. I'm glad you love them, too!

Paige Y. said...

This has always been my favorite of the Little House books. I love Little Town, but this one truly touches my heart. It's interesting that the ugliest scene in all of the books is in this one (the knife scene at the beginning). I really liked Laura's teaching scenes and the music school they all attended. When I was little I wanted to be Laura, and this book was on of the reasons why.

Kim said...

This series was an all time favorite for me when I was growing up--and can remember reading them straight through, once when we were on a long camping trip.

I re-read them 2 years ago and cried through These Happy Golden Years! It is the sweetest one, in my opinion. Of course it probably affected me so deeply this time around because I was reading them again as my own daughter was planning HER wedding.

My other favorite is The Long Winter. Wow! What amazingly hard lives they lived but with such grace and matter of factness. I did not catch when reading them as a child, just how close they were getting to starving to death during that winter.

Thanks for sharing--what warm fuzzy memories.


The Bookworm said...

this sounds so sweet, I used to love Little House when I was a kid.