Posts Tagged ‘Little Women’


“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.  

From “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

On a marathon mission to get some Christmas gifts, I stopped for a some refreshment and a bit of a sit-down. An elderly woman was enjoying her lunch with what appeared to be her granddaughter. They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. Large shopping bags filled with  purchases nestled atop empty chairs at their table. I couldn’t hear their conversation, but the scene reminded me of a long ago December afternoon with my mother.

Ma wanted to do some Christmas shopping.  I offered to take her. My mother learned to drive later in life. She approached 50 years old when she took to the wheel, after my father passed away. She drove mostly to work and back, which was barely a mile, and she would drive to our house, which was a direct route, with few turns.

On the day of our Christmas shopping, Ma drove to our house and then I drove my car to one of the shopping malls. I dropped her at the door of Carson’s and parked the car. We shopped, ate lunch and shopped a bit more. It was a pleasant time. My mom kept asking me what  I wanted for Christmas.

Ma really tried hard to buy me the perfect gifts. I often regret that I wasn’t more appreciative of her efforts, though, I promise you, some were really hard to appreciate. One day, I will tell you the story of my 21st birthday and my “party dress”, which has grown to legendary status.  Let me just hint that it had to do with gold lame, rhinestone buttons, dozens of pleats – in 1970 while I was in college! 

We walked and talked and shopped and reminisced.  It was a slow go as my mother had rheumatoid arthritis, which affected all her joints, but, especially her feet. As she started to tire, I thought aloud that we should head on home. We worked our way through Carson’s, via the lower level so I could get her to the elevator.  As we walked through the housewares section, I stopped to look at the Pfaltzgraff Christmas plates. Ma looked as well.  I casually commented how I always thought it would be fun to set a Christmas table. 

Four place settings and two more shopping bags later, we lumbered into the elevator. There was a sprightly spring to Ma’s step as she smiled at me. “I think I finally bought you something you like” she said – and she had.  The original Christmas Heritage pattern, I bring them out each December, recalling the day my mother insisted on gifting me with them for Christmas.

I thought about my mom and my Christmas dishes as I observed the women sitting across from me and made a mental note to bring the plates out when I got home. These dishes were one of the last Christmas gifts she ever gave me. She added to them before she passed on, and even spoke of them in delirium once when she was deathly ill with pneumonia, muttering something about giving the doctor a silver dollar to buy me more Christmas plates.

The doctor never got that silver dollar, but, Ma survived pneumonia – and I received a few more plates for Christmas that year.  I’m glad I took the time to eat and rest while shopping, for, in so doing, I recalled my mother and that sweet day more than 2o years ago; a very dear memory, indeed, and a far greater gift of Christmas heritage.


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I love the long shadows on November; those far-reaching limbs of trees seem to stretch out across the earth, connecting summer to winter with their long arms of hope.

As I watched the sun begin its journey this morning, I thought about the November shadows starting to form. Lights went on, for the rooms will still dark. tea whistled and the news of the day crept into my day.

As I trolled the ether waters, Garrison Keillor’s Almanac popped up. I enjoy reading the selected poem of the day; sometimes familiar verse, other times poets I have not met. On occasion, Almanac inspires a post, leading me to new waters. It isn’t always the daily poem that spurs me on, however, it is sometimes the list of birthdays; poets, essayist, literary giants.

Today, November 29, there were three notable birthdays. Authors who filled my childhood as much as ongoing years. As I read the brief biographies, my heart swelled and I thought of November’s long shadows, wondering at the lives of these notables and the shadows they cast on so many lives.

November 29 is day of birth for Louisa May Alcott, Madeline L’Engle, and C.S. Lewis.

Where would I be without “Little Women”, “A Wrinkle in Time” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”?

Where would we be, dear readers, without November’s long shadows?

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My admiration of Louisa May Alcott is known among my friends and documented on these cyber-pages. I can still see the tear stained pages of my first copy of Little Women as Beth takes her last breath; how I tried not to sob on my library book, failing miserably.  I was a young girl, a not-so-young girl, a granny, and I’ve treasured Alcott’s books and books about Alcott ever since that first schoolgirl reading.

We walked around Walden Pond a few years ago. I imagined Jo and Laurie skating on ice there and Meg falling in. I imagined Alcott’s friend, Henry Thoreau, talking to a young Louisa as she looked on in admiration. We walked through the rooms of Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts and I marveled at the simple desk she penned her most famous novel and many more works and we visited Concord’s cemetery, Sleepy Hollow. Author’s Ridge is high on top, overlooking the town, and it is there that Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau are buried and there where Louisa May rests in the simple grave above the famous town.

When my friend Sharon told me of a presentation of Alcott at the Elmhurst Historical Museum, I just knew I had to go.

Leslie Goddard, in period costume, a deep purple day dress with long, flowing sleeves and lace collar, gave a riveting impersonation of Louisa May Alcott, speaking about her experiences as a Union war nurse during the Civil War. Taken from Alcott’s “Hospital Sketches”, Ms. Goddard excelled in bringing the author to life with the wit and compassion found in Alcott’s writing.

Goddard, as Alcott, told of her eagerness to be part of the war and how she enlisted as a nurse with Dorothea Dix. She told of the hardships of war and the horrible injuries suffered and of the dying man she tended to, staying with him until his last breath, holding his hand and then carefully prying it away, his grip still tight after he passed away. She also told of the illness she suffered, typhus pneumonia, after only being at the hospital for three weeks and which ended her military nursing.

It was an amazing dramatization. I wish you could have been there to see it. Thank you Sharon for telling me about it and sharing the experience. It so gratifying to spend time with friends, learn new things, and be further enlightened about a favorite author.

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