Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge…grand finale

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This challenge has been SO much fun!  It has introduced me to new Alcott resources, as well as encouraged me to go back and read books already in my collection.  So here’s my last report for the June challenge…

Eden’s Outcasts:  The story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, by John Matteson, was on my original challenge list.  I left it until last, as I was sidetracked by Marmee and Louisa, which I added in place of re-reading Louisa May Alcott:  the woman behind Little Women.

Eden’s Outcasts is not an easy read, and I must admit I’m still in the midst of it.  It is a much more positive view of Bronson Alcott than was reflected in Marmee and Louisa.  There is more focus on his idealism and quest for reform (though often unsuccessful), and less attention paid to the truly dire straights in which that idealism often left the other members of his family.

I find it fascinating that Bronson saw little of himself in Louisa, feeling that she took too much after her mother, Abigail. He found her behavior rowdy and unladylike, and seemed to blame those behaviors on the qualities she shared with her mother.  Ironically, she was born on her father’s birthday, and died only two days after he did.

The author shares insights into the opinions of the other transcendentalists of the day who were Bronson’s contemporaries and Louisa’s teachers and friends.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, as well as a host of abolitionists and feminists, were neighbors and fellow travelers, and I can only imagine how interacting with them must have fed Louisa’s mind and heart.

Bronson was an adept orator, thinker, and verbal storyteller, but his writings were often stilted and pompous, and he ultimately failed as a writer.  In contrast, Louisa was much more comfortable writing her stories than speaking to people — even though I hear her voice talking to me when I read them.

Since Eden’s Outcasts is still a “work in progress” for me, I won’t try for a full summary here, but I encourage you to find it and give it a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

Perfection

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While going through enormous piles of paper today (and tossing quite a bit, thank goodness), I ran across another one of Mom’s doll poems that begged to be shared.  I always enjoy finding scraps of her writing, as it feels like a mini-visit with her.  Enjoy!

Perfection

The dolls that are pure and perfect and fine

Are the dolls some ladies have in mind

When they want a new one for their collection.

A head that is broken, half there, from a dump

Is what makes my hands itch to hold

And my heart to jump

At the thought of its “could be” perfection.

So dolls that are pure and perfect and fine

Stay on the shelf and out of my mind.

While the parts and pieces, orphans and waifs

Are gathered in boxes all over the place,

And so in honest reflection–

The dolls that are pure and perfect and fine

Are for others to buy, to love, to find.

As for me, I’m content with my collection,

(Well not quite — I always want more — another arm here,

A box of parts there, a small bisque head

Without its hair, and on and on)

Without exception the dear dump darlings

Are to me perfection.

By Hazel Pender, January 8, 1981

Six years later, I'm still going through boxes and drawers of Mom's playthings (photo taken at Fresno Doll Sale, 2014).

Six years later, I’m still going through boxes and drawers of Mom’s playthings (photo taken at Fresno Doll Sale, 2014).

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Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge – Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag

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I have been in love with all things Alcott since I discovered Little Women in third grade. My grandmother’s gift of Flower Fables the following year was the beginning of my collection, which originally was of the volumes printed by Little, Brown & Co.

In March, 1997, I chanced upon a used bookstore in Sacramento, CA, where I found a  1906 edition of Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag Volume I:  My Boys, etc.  The delicious teal blue binding hinted of wondrous things inside, but I took it home and put it on one of my Alcott shelves and never read it.  Until this challenge came along, and it was time.

Aunt Jo's Scrapbag,  Volume I:  My Boys, etc. Little, Brown & Co. 1906

Aunt Jo’s Scrapbag,
Volume I: My Boys, etc.
Little, Brown & Co.
1906

Originally copyrighted in 1871 by Louisa May Alcott as a Christmas gift for her family (then again in 1899 by John S. P. Alcott), reading this volume feels like sitting next to “Aunt Jo” and hearing her tell her stories.

The inscription on the fly-leaf of the book.  Perhaps it was a Thanksgiving or birthday gift to young Mister Vanderbilt.

The inscription on the fly-leaf of the book. Perhaps it was a Thanksgiving or birthday gift to young Mister Vanderbilt.

I took my copy out to the back yard early yesterday morning and sat under a shady tree to read.  The preface begins, “As grandmothers rummage their piece-bags and bundles in search of gay odds and ends to make gifts with which to fill the little stockings that hang all in a row on Christmas Eve, so I have gathered together some stories, old and new, to amuse the large family that has  so rapidly and beautifully grown up about me.”

Louisa’s sense of humor, as well as her intense love for “her boys”, shines through in this little book.  I think my favorite story is “Buzz”, a tale of her friendship with the fly she names Buzz, “on account of his fine voice”.  They share her rooms quite cozily for many weeks, until she leaves for a lengthy visit with family twenty miles away during the winter.  Unfortunately, in her absence, her friend dies from the cold.  She, of course, buries him in her garden, where she remembers him as she waters her plants, saying, “Grow green, ivy, lie lightly, moss, shine warmly, sun, and make his last bed pleasant to my little friend.”

I’m looking forward to sharing these stories with my granddaughters.

2015 Reading Challenge #20/50.

Transition

momfawn:

Today I discovered that my two very favorite bloggers were walking away from their blogs for other creative pursuits, and while mourning our almost-daily visits I found yesterday’s post from lillian the home poet. Exquisite timing.

Originally posted on lillian the home poet:

She stood at the crossroads of dusk
mourning smile upon her lips,
and slowly stepped across.

ocean 2

View original

Creative stalling

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I have been thinking this evening about how I get things done.  Mostly I have been thinking about how much I can avoid with some creative stalling.

I had an early work night, and came home determined to write tonight’s blog post.  I sat at my computer desk about 10:30, ready to write.  Since then, I have

*played Bingo Crack (my newest obsession) on the computer

*fixed and eaten a huge bowl of Butterfinger ice cream with Butterscotch topping

*heard granddaughters’ prayers

*fed the dog

*played Mahjong on the computer

*dispensed “itch medicine” to both girls (separately)

*read a few emails

*”built” a peanut butter & Jelly sandwich and eaten it

*checked out next week’s work schedules and calendared mine

and I feel like I am missing something.

Oh, and my granddaughters are stalling, too.  They have been in bed for nearly two hours and haven’t fallen asleep yet.  “I’m not tired yet, Grammy,” has been the refrain.

I spent over two hours this afternoon setting up a “Mailchimp” account so I can make more wonderful newsletters for my Close To My Heart business.  It was supposed to be an easy process, but I kept getting stalled by widgets that refused to be configured and unicorn drawings that didn’t want to be copied.  I think I must have depleted my creativity quotient for today!

So I’ll stop stalling, run a quick spell-check, and publish today’s post.  Good night, and may all your dreams be creative.

Grandmothering

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Being a grandmother can be hard work.  It is easy to love grandchildren when they are minding, when you are cuddling with them first thing in the morning or hearing their prayers at night.  But when they are being royal pains — or purposefully disobeying — it is hard.

A grandmother’s first job is to love her grandchildren half crazy, to spoil them rotten.  And that’s great (and great fun, as well).  But when you share their home and are with them nearly all the time, the parenting part of grandparenting has to kick in.

I admit to being a bit of a pushover when it comes to my granddaughters.  I love sweetness and light; discipline is not my strong point.  But they have to understand that I mean what I say, that I wouldn’t tell them what to do (or not to do) without a reason.

So tonight we left a lovely concert early because Granddaughter #2 decided she didn’t have to listen to her Grammy.  And when she wailed on the drive home that, “You are blaming me for us leaving,” I told her, “We aren’t blaming you.  We left because you wouldn’t listen and I couldn’t keep you safe that way.”

Tomorrow is another day.

My girls waiting for their granddad's concert to begin.

My girls waiting for their granddad’s concert to begin.

“Miss Lady”

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Tonight at work a family of six came in for dinner — two adults and four children.  They had a toddler, a little girl about three, and two older ones.  As I seated them, I gave the toddler his kid’s menu and crayons, and the little girl said she wanted one, too.  I said, “Here you go, sweetheart,” and handed hers to her.

She lit up like a Christmas tree and said, “Thank you, Miss Lady!”  As I said “You’re welcome,” she told me, “You know, you’re kind of cute!”  I told her that was the nicest thing anyone had said to me all day.

I love my job.

One little monkey…

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We all know the rhyme, “Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and broke his head…”

Tonight after work I was just chilling in the garage with my son-in-law when we heard Lily shrieking from the bedroom, then she burst through the door saying, “Olivia!” but nothing much more coherent than that.  “Olivia what?” I asked.  “Olivia hurt!” she gasped.  Then we saw Olivia and it was our turn to gasp.  Her mouth was full of blood, there was blood on her jammies, and as she stood in front of us crying, blood was everywhere!

It seems our little monkey was jumping on the bed, slammed her mouth into the wooden bunk bed frame, and bit an amazing hole in her tongue.  She didn’t bite through it, didn’t bite it off, but there is this huge hole in the center of her tongue.

Once the bleeding stopped (helped by ice and a washcloth), each adult had to remind her that this wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been jumping on the bed.  It hurt to say that to her, but we had to get through to her somehow.

A few minutes ago she went in to wash her face and looked into the mirror.  “Grammy, there’s a big hole in my tongue,” she cried.  (I had hoped she wouldn’t look tonight.  It really looks horrific.  But her mama looked on the Internet and stitching isn’t recommended unless a tongue is practically bitten off.)

So both girls are crashing on the couch watching Despicable Me and trying not to talk.  I know her tongue will still be very sore tomorrow.  But I hope she will remember, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

Summertime

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Well, today is the first day of summer.  And to celebrate, half the neighborhood seems to be having parties tonight.  My parking spot on the street was full when I got home, so I snuggled in behind another car in our driveway.  And the bases are thumping.

“We’ll have to stay up all night,” said Olivia.  “The music is too loud for sleeping!”  But mean old Grammy is putting them to bed anyway.  They spent the evening swimming and watching movies with friends, and now they are tired enough to be arguing that they aren’t tired — I’m sure every parent recognizes those symptoms!

It is time to read from “Alice in Wonderland” and hear prayers.  Sweet summery dreams, everyone.

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