Heather, An Adventist Girl (1889) Book 2: A New Life Down Under Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Trip To The Doctor

This chapter actually frustrates me. This is because the history is not explained. Were eyeglasses a thing for children in the 1800s? I think I read somewhere that most people didn’t get them until they were adults. I could be misremembering, though. Google is no help, and I don’t know of an offline resource I could check. It would be really really nice for the author to have included a section in the back about the history of children’s glasses, perhaps with pictures.

I know it’s a minor nitpick, but I like to know when things are historically accurate.

In any case, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.

Nine year old Heather Gibson picked up a smooth, gray rock. Gently, she threw it over the hopscotch grid that that Laura Douglas had drawn for them in the dry, parched ground that stood between their two houses. Heather held her breath, watching as the rock landed on square #8.

I never played hopscotch as a kid, so I don’t know what that means. I know it involves a lot of hopping, but I don’t actually know how to play the game.

“Not 8 again!” Heather complained, but with a smile. She loved a challenge.

I don’t know why this sentence bothers me, but it sets my teeth on edge. I’d say it’s because Heather’s not allowed to show frustration or complain, but she spent all of last book whining, and in a few minutes she will complain about having gotten her dress dirty. Soooo I’m not sure why this sentence makes me want to throw the book across the room.

Anyway, Mr. Gibson calls the girls, telling them it’s time to go. He’s driving the wagon to town so Laura can see Dr. Hansen. Her glasses have finally arrived, and she’s super excited about it.

Heather squeezed Laura’s arm. “Your father agreed you could come with me to Newcastle to get my eye-glasses,” she said, trying to sound serious, “but I have one condition.”

“What is it?” Laura asked, her cheeks crinkling with a smile.

“You can’t laugh at me.” Heather said. She tried to sound as if she were teasing, but she meant it. Sort of.

I…have a hard time imagining a 9 year old smiling as she says something like that. I know that sounds a little nitpicky, and maybe it is. But sometimes it’s the little things that just make this book annoying.

Laura promises not to laugh at her best friend.

Heather smiled and ran to her father. She grabbed the side of the wagon and hopped in. She landed squarely on the hard wooden bench. Ouch! she thought, wishing that Father had agreed to buy a more comfortable buggy. He had argued that a simple wagon was all they needed, and Heather knew he was right. She would love to have a shining black buggy like the one Ethel Reynolds rode in, but in her heart Heather knew that her father was right.

It’s a bit heavy handed. I get that the message is supposed to be “don’t buy anything you don’t need, for that is not being a good steward of God’s money,” but all I’m seeing here is “God doesn’t want you to be comfortable riding in your buggy.”

What I actually suspect is that Heather’s father is taking the money he could have used to buy a new buggy and using it to get Heather’s glasses. I don’t know how it worked back in 1889, but in this century, Literature Evangelists don’t get paid a salary by the conference. They make their money selling books.

People do not get rich going door to door, ok? Those stories you hear about Canvassers making a lot of money? The reason you hear about them is because they’re uncommon. Either that or someone has collected these stories in an effort to recruit you into the canvassing program. They’re not going to tell you that there are days when you do not sell a single book or get a single donation.

Anyway, that is it as far as Heather’s longing for things they can’t afford. We never hear about her wanting stuff she “shouldn’t” have again. So I’m not sure what the point of that was, except to show us that Heather is a perfect little angel?

Aunt Rachel brings out a picnic lunch for Heather, tells her to be good for her father, and they leave.

Heather’s father, Mr. Gibson, asks Laura if she’s ever been to Newcastle. Which seems like a stupid question, given that it’s probably the only town for miles.

“Yes, Mr. Gibson,” she answered politely. “My father has taken Emma and me with him many times when he needed to buy more building supplies.”

This child is supposed to be 8. This does not sound like an 8 year old to me. It sounds a little stilted.

In any case, Laura asks why Heather’s brother  Nathan isn’t coming.

“He and Father have been working in Newcastle every day for the last two weeks selling books door to door,” Heather answered. “Nathan told me he was tired of riding to town and that he wanted to play with James today.”

I don’t recall if we were ever told Nathan’s age. I think I decided he was 12, but I can’t recall if I have any textual evidence for that. 12 or 13 isn’t too young to canvas, especially if you’re with a partner. But still, poor Nathan! His father signed up for the canvassing work, not him. Eesh. Especially if the weather has been particularly brutal lately, which we are told and shown.

As they neared Newcastle, the salty ocean air floated toward them. The city was unusually full of flowers and green plants, but today it stood dry and thirsty against the mighty ocean.

Going door to door is hard work, especially in hot weather. Poor Nathan. Of course he wants to play with James.

Heather’s family reach the doctor’s office, and Heather goes back into the exam room. Dr. Hansen has her try on a pair of glasses and adjusts them. He has her read form a chart on the wall. She does, and the good doctor sends her on her way.All the way home Heather is all, “ZOMG I CAN READ THAT! I CAN SEE THAT! WOW THIS IS AMAZING!” And Laura’s polite, Laura tolerates this for a while but she does note that it got old really really fast.

On their way home, Mr. Gibson and co run into (not literally) Ethel Reynolds and May Evans. He stops to greet them, telling them they’ve all been to Newcastle.

“Heather,” he said, turning in his seat. “Show the girls your new eye-glasses.”

Heather’s cheeks burned. She turned and smiled weakly.

“I thought you looked different,” May replied with a smirk.

Ethel covered her mouth with her hand to hide her giggle. Heather’s heart felt as if it had dropped into her stomach.

When they get home, Heather gets embarrassed and flees to her room to cry afterward. Mr. Gibson knocks on the door of her room, and Heather tells him she’s embarrassed because the girls were laughing at her new glasses.

“I didn’t hear anyone laughing,” Mr. Gibson said gently.

“They didn’t laugh out loud, actually,” Heather said.

Oh, grown ups. They can be so oblivious, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s accidental. People don’t always laugh at you out loud. And in any case, wasn’t Ethel covering her mouth to hide the fact that she was giggling? At least one of those girls laughed out loud.

Mr. Gibson, instead of admitting that he knows nothing when it comes to social interaction, changes the subject.

“I met a family in Newcastle last week while I was selling books,” he said quietly.

“Oh?” Heather said with a sniffle.

“they have a girl your age,” Mr. Gibson continued. “If she needed eye-glasses, her family would never be able to afford to buy them for her.”

Heather instantly felt ashamed of crying. “I’m sorry, Father,” she said.

I can see why he told her this, kind of. On the one hand, it does give her some perspective. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s wrong to be sad when someone laughs at you. What he’s mostly doing here is to try and guilt her into feeling bad about feeling bad, which is not cool.

Just as I am wondering why her father told her this, he tells  Heather that he told her about this family because he was hoping she could come with him to meet the family. “Come with me, Heather, to meet these poor people who manage to make even less than I do. And I’m a canvasser so that’s an achievement”

“The mother of the family would like to learn more about God. The girl seems interested, too. The father doesn’t show much interest, I’m afraid,” Mr. Gibson said, and his eyes clouded over with concern. “Perhaps you could help me tell them about Jesus.”

Ooooh it’s even better. “Come with me to gawk at this  poor family so you can help me prey on them when they are at a low point in their lives. Help me rope them into the cult!”

Seventh Day Adventists: Preying on poor people for Jesus since 1889! Is Mr. Gibson going to tell them about mandatory tithing before or after the baptism? I put my money on the latter.

Heather agrees to come meet the poor family to try and convert them, and her father leaves the room. Heather puts her glasses on and prays.

Thanks for my eye-glasses, Lord she prayed. Then she bounced down the stairs to help with supper.

I now have a mental image of Heather tucking her legs under her and bouncing down the stairs like a rubber ball. Did they have rubber balls in the 1880s?







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