15: To Laura, Lucy, and Louisa
In one of my favorite quirky movies, the bookshop owner goes off on a delightful tangent and says, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."
And I could hardly agree more.
That is why I'm tipping my hat to the women who wrote great books that would shape my identity as I grew into a 'little woman'. (Word play. You’re welcome.)
To Laura Ingalls Wilder – for making me wish I wore petticoats and made my own cheese. For instructing me on the basics of rag-doll making and introducing me to calico and compelling me to buy slates and slate pencils. For demonstrating the strength found in caring for home and children. And for a beautiful record of pioneer life that taught resilience and stick-to-it-iveness. (Totally a word.)
To Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose “red-headed snippet”, the sweet Anne, taught me that dreaming and writing are noble goals and imagination is to be cherished. Who taught me that Sarah – with an h – was something to be proud of and that memorizing poetry really could delight your heart. And also possibly get you into a sinking dory, but from which a handsome man might rescue you.
To Louisa May Alcott and the way she captured the glory of a diverse family of women whose strengths and quirks bound them together with grace. For Meg, from whom I learned that being a “fashion plate” isn’t always worth the hassle. For Jo, who is basically me and from whom I learned to honor my unique personality and gifts, however literary or dramatic they may be. And also that it’s okay to hide in the curtains instead of dance. For Beth and her sweet music and her compassion. And for Amy, and her mispronunciations and learning things the hard way and being a general light in the home.
I have long felt that reading a good book should move you. That perhaps when you are done you should feel a bit aimless and possibly you should cry a little. I felt this way when I finished the Little House series the first time I re-read it as an adult. And I feel this when I finish the Anne series or the Harry Potter books. One of my favorite bloggers is a book buff and is constantly providing new reading material and while I love diving into new books, new authors…it is true: there’s something different about childhood reading.
Because of Laura and Lucy and Louisa, I’m building a library for my daughter – a library with books about strong women, women who succeed with grace on their own merit, women who DO stuff and are ferocious. In a good way. I want my daughter to read books about girls that are brave, girls that are wise, books in which the characters are honorable and confidant and sassy and fun. Books that will shape her in positive ways and counter the inevitable pressure of growing up in an appearance-obsessed society. (Yes, I realize her father and I are largely responsible for shaping her outlook and perspective as she grows - but part of this will be in the ways we equip her to engage literature and music and film selectively and with discernment.)
I think it fitting to close with a quote from Marmee, the beloved mother of the Little Women and one of my favorite literary mothers:
“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”