Meeting A New Friend
Heather tucked her tousled mousy blond hair under her sunbonnet. It had been very hot again all week, and Heather was tired of it. Nathan stretched out on the bench next to her and waved his hat in front of his face. Even the horses looked hot and seemed to mope as they clip clopped along the streets of Newcastle.
Please go look at the above picture and tell me whether or not you think her hair looks “mousy blond.” It looks reddish brown to me.
I don’t feel too sympathetic for Heather. I feel a huge amount of sympathy for poor Nathan, who is forced to go canvassing in this ridiculous heat. I mean, at least Heather gets to be inside out of the direct sunlight.
Mr. Gibson stops the buggy in a nice looking neighborhood, telling Nathan that he is going to work in this neighborhood while he and Heather go visit the Harts.
Nathan seems just as fond of this idea as I do.
“Father,” he asked pulling his cap down to shade his eyes, “are you going to be long? It’s so hot again today.”
When I was canvassing, our leaders blatantly ignored heat advisories. The people we were canvassing either were really sympathetic about it, or acted like we were foolish for going out anyway. Like we had a choice.
Mr. Gibson doesn’t know how long he’s going to be, and tells Nathan to start at one end of the street, go to the other end, cross over, and come back. In canvassing lingo this is called “working a T.” He tells Nathan that when he’s done, he can rest under that big tree over yonder.
$5 says that as soon as Mr. Gibson left, Nathan totally flopped down under the tree and didn’t do anything. Either that or he skipped a metric fuckton of houses to try and make his route shorter. But the author is a thoroughly brainwashed Adventist, so none of this will ever actually get confirmed.
“Yes, Father,” Nathan answered and pulled uncomfortably at his stiff, white shirt.
Mr. Gibson’s cheeks crinkled up as he smiled. “You’ll do fine, son,” he said.
Yes, Nathan is totally worried about how he’ll do selling books. Not about, I dunno, keeling over due to excessive heat and dehydration. I whine about the safety of the modern canvassing program a lot (seriously it’s terrible) but at least I was rarely ever alone on a street.
We get told in the next paragraph that Nathan is 13, so I guess I was right about his age. This is where this book series would have done well to copy American Girl. American Girl books had those character guides in the beginning, where they listed the names, pictures, and a little bit of information about the main characters. Not that you really needed it, because the characters were mostly well rounded individuals with different personalities. The characters here are all interchangeable cardboard cutouts.
Mr. Gibson pulls the buggy to a stop at the marketplace. He hitches up the horses, then takes Heather and his bible up a set of stairs.
The door opened wide, and a round woman wearing a clean white apron greeted them. “Mr. Gibson!” she said, the excitement written on her face. “Do come in,” and she motioned them in with a flourish.
So, that’s Mrs. Hart. She’s really excited to see Heather, giving her kisses on each cheek. Heather decides she likes Mrs. Hart, but in reality I never liked anyone who felt free to kiss me.
Mrs. Hart explains that the apartment is crowded because she’s taken in a lot of washing, and has to hang stuff to dry in her apartment. So Mrs. Hart is working to keep the family afloat. I have no issue with this, but in the 1880s it was probably a huge deal.
Heather is introduced to Adelaide, “Just call me Addie.”
Mrs. Hart offers Mr. Gibson tea, but he refuses. I’m not sure if he’s refusing because he knows Mrs. Hart is poor and can’t really spare it, or if it’s to do with the health message. I’m guessing it’s the latter. Ellen White basically lumped coffee and tea in the same category as alcohol.
They pray over their glasses of water, and Heather and Addie go over to a sunny spot on the floor while Mr. Gibson and Mrs. Hart talk.
“Isn’t Adelaide a city in Australia?” Heather asked.
“Yes,” Addie answered. “I was named after the city.” She rubbed her hands on the floor as she talked. “We used to live there, before the recession.” She smiled proudly. “My father is a banker, but his bank closed last year. We’ve been moving around everywhere since, looking for work.”
We’re told Addie is 9. 9 year old Addie feels a need to justify her family’s situation to Heather. Which suggests to me that she’s kind of self conscious about it. I wonder if the reason for that is heather herself, or if Addy just does that everytime she meets someone.
In any case, I’m not going to pick too much on that, that sounds realistic enough to me. I think I was 9 years old when I started picking up on my family’s financial situation.
What’s odd to me is that we’re just now hearing about this recession. And we don’t hear much about it ever again. What I really liked about the American Girl books was that they brought history to life. You had these big events in your books and you saw how they affected the characters. American Girl has a depression era character named Kit. Kit’s father lost his job in the Depression. And even though the focus of Kit’s stories are still Kit, you still hear quite a lot about the Great Depression and what happened and how that affected people. It even affected Kit’s best friend Ruthie, who’s father was very well off.
I really wish the author had at least included a section about this recession in the back of the book. How bad was it, exactly? The Hart family is the only family here we see out of work, and it only seems to affect them. It’s just really odd.
Anyway, Addie asks Heather if she wants to play a game, and Heather agrees, but not really. Heather starts doing that really annoying thing that people do when they say they are paying attention to you, but in reality they’re paying attention to something else entirely. Even small children can tell when you’re doing this.Seriously I have no idea why Addie likes Heather.
Addie bounced her knees up and down. “I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with…” she turned her sparkling brown eyes up as she thought. “Lantern,” she said triumphantly.
I may or may not have spent way too much freakin’ time trying to figure out what rhymes with Lantern before I finally looked it up. If you’re only looking for things that rhyme with the second syllable, “tern,” there’s lots of things. But the online rhyming dictionary didn’t come up with anything that rhymed with “lantern” that was two syllables.
As heather and Addie played, Mr. Gibson and Mrs. Hart sat down at the table. “Have you been able to study what we talked about last week?” Mr. Gibson asked gently.
“Yes,” Heather heard Mrs. Hart answer. She lifted a Bible from the pile of books. “Could you please explain to me again why the Sabbath is on Saturday?”
Seriously? That is what you think your potential convert cardboard cutout character is going to have questions about? That’s like, the least complicated thing about Adventists ever.
Heather’s father starts to explain.
Heather smiled. “Is it my turn now?” She asked Addie.
Heather, if you have to ask, it’s going to be pretty damn obvious you haven’t been paying attention. Just saying.
Just then, Addie’s father, Mr. Hart, comes home. He’s not too happy to see Mr. Gibson.
“You’ve come back again, have you, Mr. Gibson?” He sat down at the table.
Go Mr. Hart!
“Mr. Gibson brought his daughter,” Addie said quickly. She squeezed Heather’s hand. “Just like he promised.”
Mr. Hart doesn’t seem amused, but he’s polite enough to Heather.
Heather felt a little uncomfortable, as if she and Mr. Gibson were not wanted here.
Probably because you aren’t. Mr. Hart realizes what your father is up to, and he’s on to you.
Mr. Gibson marked his place in his bible and closed the cover. “I would be happy to come back another time, if now is not convenient,” he said.
Well I will say, he seems a lot more polite than some Adventists who know when they’re not wanted.
Mrs. Hart thinks now is a good time, but Mr. Hart does not. He’s tired from job hunting all day, you see, and so yes it would be better if Mr. Gibson came back later, thank you.
Mr. Gibson gets up to leave, but asks Mrs. Hart if he can pray first.
Oh my god, Gibson, you’ve been asked to leave. That does not mean “try to stay and witness as long as I can before they finally tell me to leave for real.”
Mr. Hart sees right through this and tells Gibson there will be no praying. He goes into another room. Mrs. Hart apologizes, Mr. Gibson says it’s alright, and he leaves.
“Mr. Hart doesn’t like us, does he?” Heather asked as she settled into the buggy.
“It isn’t that he doesn’t like us,” Mr. Gibson answered and snapped the reins. “I think that he is just searching for answers to his problems.”
No, Mr. Gibson, it’s you. It’s you and your stupid little cult. I have heard this argument before. People aren’t rejecting you, annoying little doorknocker; they’re rejecting God. It’s what canvassers tell each other to make them feel better about getting the door slammed in their face for the 80 bajillionth time. I know I told myself that on multiple occasions.
Heather thought for a moment. “Were you always a Christian, Father? Have you always turned to God with your problems?”
Mr. Gibson looked thoughtful. “Nearly always,” he answered. “Do you remember your Grandpa Joe?”
“When I was about your age, your Grandpa Joe worked with a man who was a Seventh Day Adventist. He told your grandpa all about his beliefs. At first Grandpa Joe didn’t want to hear about it.”
“Like Mr. Hart?”
“Yes,” Mr. Gibson answered. “But God was working on Grandpa Joe’s heart. He studied his bible, and one night he asked Jesus to come into his heart. After that, he asked the pastor to come and study the Bible with us each evening.” A happy look washed over Mr. Gibson’s face. It was on one of those nights that I asked Jesus into my heart, too. Our whole family was baptized together.
Heather then asks about her mother, and is informed that, though a Christian, Heather’s mom wasn’t Adventist until she met Heather’s father, who shared his beliefs with her. She converted and they then got married.
“It must be difficult for Addie and Mrs. Hart when Mr. Hart doesn’t want to be a Christian,” Heather said.
How do you know Mr. Hart isn’t A Christian? He doesn’t’ seem to like you and your brand of religion, and he doesn’t want you to pray with him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a Christian. Maybe he is, and he just doesn’t want to convert to Adventism.
No such complications are ever allowed to enter these books.
Mr. Gibson says that there’s a time in every person’s life, even the lives of born Adventists, when they must choose to love and serve Jesus. Heather begins to understand that her father is talking about her, that she needs to make the decision soon. Of course there’s really no decision to make. Heather is in an Adventist book, so of course she will decide to follow Jesus.
The book doesn’t really spend too much time on the question. Heather never sits down and thinks about the pros and cons of choosing to follow him. I get that she’s 9, but even a 9 year old could sit down and think, “If I choose to follow Jesus, I’ll have to give up something I like. Like necklaces.”
Since there’s no real decision to be made, we really only hear about this twice. The chapter ends with Nathan jumping into the buggy and complaining about how hot it is. I hope he got lots of rest under the shady tree the minute his father left him alone out there. They all go home for a nice cold glass of lemonade.