Autumn is at its peak beauty right now where I live. The leaves are beautiful, the weather is lovely, and the crops are coming in. Farmers work very hard this time of year, just like Kirsten’s family would have over 150 years ago but with almost none of today’s modern conveniences. That’s why Kirsten might not have started her school year until right about now or even later; most families needed their children to help them with the harvest. This was especially true with older boys, but an immigrant family like Kirsten’s probably would have needed everyone’s help. This point was emphasized in Kirsten’s mystery The Runaway Friend (an excellent story that really adds perspective to Kirsten’s life and the immigrant experience). In this book, everyone is working frantically to get the wheat in before it is ruined and everyone has a job no matter their age or gender. School was challenging for Kirsten at first, but I think getting to go back after a season of hard work might have been something she looked forward to.
At school Kirsten studies hard, earns Rewards of Merit, and enjoys sunny lunch hours outside of the school house.
Kirsten’s lunch and school supplies are some of my favorite pieces of Kirsten’s collection, but I never did get her school bench. It seems silly now to spend $40+ on a log with legs from eBay, so I decided to pursue Kirsten’s school bench as a thrifty DIY project. It cost nothing besides a little sweet talking.
I batted my eyelashes at someone who I knew to be competent in the use of power tools and showed him a picture of what it was I wanted. He agreed to see what he could do, but in the meantime, my mom and I felt a sudden urge of feminist independence and found ourselves in my dad’s wood shop attempting to decide which machine would best do the job. We settled on the table saw, figured out how to turn it on, and managed to cut our chosen log in half (ok, 2/3 and 1/3, but pretty close) without loosing any fingers. We were pretty pleased with our product until Mr. Handyman came home with this beautiful bench. He had marched into the woods and hand selected this lovely piece of cedar and of course planed it perfectly smooth. I was only momentarily dismayed at being so completely shown up, because wow! It is perfect! I tried to sit Kirsten on it, but she kept flopping off (if you look closely at the picture of the real bench in the catalogue, Kirsten is not actually sitting on it which makes me think she would have flopped off of that one too), so he thoughtfully added the addition of the wire back rest which helps her to stay securely in place while remaining inconspicuous. It also comes off easily so it can be photographed without a doll. The legs are glued into holes made with the drill press, though I think just a regular cordless drill could do an adequate job too. I suppose for a more authentic experience we could have forgone the power tools completely and used the handsaw!