I read The Yearling several summers ago to my oldest two children. I stopped somewhere about the time the Baxter family started spring planting. I knew my kids and I could not handle the coming ending. For a while, Isaac and Bekah were none the wiser. Jerusha read the book by herself a while back. She hated it. Of course she did. She had no warning and no one to help her sift through all the emotion.
Well, this summer I set out to read it again to Malachi, Jedidiah and Asher. At first Asher and Malachi hated the book. It bored them with it's long descriptive paragraphs. They even took to reading other books silently in the same room while I read aloud. But eventually, Penny Baxter's good nature won their hearts, and Buck Forrester intrigued them, and they all 3 got excited whenever I'd announce, "It's time to read."
It's not just the dying of the deer that is so rough on me. This book pulled at my heart many times, and I found this second time through that I genuinely loved Ma Baxter, in spite of her cold tendencies. The author has a way of expressing what a man or a woman feels that seems so universal. Even though I've never lost a baby, Stephan and I have struggled along, and I felt I could understand some of what Ory feared and why she help back affection and worried so much.
Of course, everyone loves Penny. He's the sense and sensibility, the wisdom and the humor to the book. He couldn't make an enemy. His love for Ory brought me to tears, and his gentle way of speaking to her and assuring her... I don't have words to describe the power a husband can have on a wife. Again, I tried to relate, and I found that over the last 19 years, Stephan has often used gentleness and wisdom to quiet my irrationalities, and his kindness has overwhelmed me some days.
There were countless lessons to be learned from all the characters. Buck wanted to be decent, but he was drowning in the sin and corruption around him. If any of us got on a roof to nail it down, but our tool belt was full of spatulas and whisks, we'd not get far in our work. We might recognize we had the wrong tools for the job, and we might even take them out, but if they weren't replaced with the correct hammer and nails, or drill, bits and screws, we still couldn't get the roofing down. I think Buck must have been that frustrated. For him it was easier to go along with what he knew than branch beyond it and be alone.
And there's Jody. Boyhood to manhood. With an 18 year old and a 12 year old and 2 more coming up behind, I understand Jody better this time through the book than I did last time. I found I wasn't as sympathetic to his desire to protect Flag, but I wished time and again I could jump in the book and shake Ma Baxter, urging her, "Hug him. Love on him. You'll be better off. Some day, you'll look back and wish you had."
Along with analyzing the characters and comparing myself to them, I found a few quotes that I hope I never forget. Some hold some punch to them, but one is just because I love the English language and do my best not to butcher it. Hopefully it will make any reader smile.
Upon Ory (Ma Baxter) finding out Fodder-wing, the yougnest Forrester, had died:
He said, "I never seed a family take a thing so hard."
She said, "Don't tell me them big rough somebodies took on."
He said, "Ory, the day may come when you'll know the human heart is allus the same. Sorrer strikes the same all over. Hit makes a different kind o' mark in different places. Seems to me, times, hit ain't done nothin' to you but sharpen your tongue."
She sat down abruptly.
She said, "Seems like bein' hard is the only way I kin stand it."
He left his breakfast and went to her and stroked her hair. "I know. Jest be a leetle mite easy on t'other feller."
During the cold winter:
Penny said, "You and me had ought to be gittin' out that speller, boy."
"Mebbe the roaches has ate it."
Ma Baxter poised her needle in the air. She pointed it at him. "You best study your grammar, too," she said. "You'd ought to say, 'The roaches has eat it.' "
When the store had been out of the brown alpaca Ory needed to expand her wedding dress, she refused to buy enough black alpaca to make an entire new dress for the Christmas doin's in Volusia:
Penny presented her with the black alpaca the evening the cake was done. She looked at him and at the material. She burst into tears. She dropped into a chair and threw her apron over her head and swayed back and forth with every appearance of grief. Jody was alarmed. She must be disappointed. Penny went to her and laid his hand on her hair.
He said, "Tain't the lack o' will I don't do sich as that for you all the time."
If you haven't read the book, I realize I've partly spoiled the plot. Still, you should take time. Your heart will be touched.