Somehow a few months ago my mom and Hazel started emailing. I’m not sure how it started, but they emailed back and forth about how virtual school was going, how Hazel was doing with her piano and singing, how she was feeling about friends etc. And then it morphed into books. Hazel would email Grammie about the books she was reading, Grammie would respond with recommendations which Hazel would then devour. And then somehow Hazel started reading Little Women and told Grammie how much she loved it, which got Grammie to read it. And then, somehow, Grammie had booked tickets out to Boston to take Hazel to tour Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. That mom of mine is one amazing Grandma. All of this emailing back and forth was exactly the boost Hazel has needed this year. It makes me tear up just thinking about the special bond these two have formed over the past few months. A bond Hazel will always have, rooting her into all that is good and strong and beautiful about my mother. When I named Hazel I hoped she’d have a special relationship with my mom (whose mother’s name was Hazel). I’m so thankful to my mom for seeing this need and nurturing it. And for loving Hazel so perfectly. Hazel feels from her the kind of unconditional love that I wish she could always feel from me. Sometimes it’s hard for mothers and oldest daughters to fully feel the love they have for each other with the day to day tasks of raising and growing. Grammie and I also read Little Women (well, we at least got through part one) in preparation for our visit to the Orchard House. We stopped at the Colonial Inn in Concord before the tour for some brunch. The dining room we ate in dates back to the 1700’s and as we ate we liked to think about how Louisa and her family certainly had walked through that place, if not eaten there for a special occasion. The food was surprisingly delicious (Hazel got Chicken and Waffles!?!) and we had a nice chat.
We were all incredibly inspired by our visit to the Orchard House. I wish we had a picture of our amazing tour guide Kathy. Since no one else was there we had a private tour. It only lasted an hour but I think we all wished it could last forever. We learned so much about the Alcott family. We all left feeling inspired in different ways. I left feeling like I wanted to ditch my kids for a whole week and just read about Transcendentalism, read Thoreau and Emerson and Alcott and all the memoirs and biographies I could get my hands on for Louisa and her sisters and parents. What an incredible group of thinkers.
Here are some notes I took on my phone, things I wanted to remember and think about more. Maybe I’ll write more about them one of these days:
- The Alcotts were incredibly deliberate parents. They raised 4 solidly independent and talented daughters who each thoroughly perused their passions. Anna was an actress, Lousia a writer, Beth a pianist (and an angel) and May a very accomplished artist. I was super inspired by this, I want to help my children to find their passions and pursue them. I wish I could take Amos and Abby to dinner and pick their brains about how they discovered their daughters strengths and how they encouraged them. Maybe someone has written this in a book somewhere.
- The Alcott children kept two journals. One was a heart journal where they wrote the private workings of their hearts. The other was a journal that their mother (and maybe father?) read and wrote responses in. I love that idea. Just started it with Charlie and hope to do it with Hazel too (once she warms up to the idea…sometimes that takes a little while).
- Grandpa Alcott wrote this beautiful poem to his little Grandson (I think it was Anna’s child). It’s framed in the room that was their nursery once their father died and Anna spent more time back at the orchard house. Darn, I can’t find it on the internet. I’ll post it when I find it.
- Lousia believed that you should run and play and do lots of housework in order to be a good writer. My mom bought Hazel a whole little booklet of “Aunt Jo’s Literary lessons.” Lots of great advice for young writers.
- Lousia was a stormy woman with a strong will and a lot of gusto. Lots like Jo in Little Women.
- She wrote Little Women on her little desk in her room right in that house. She wrote part one in 6 weeks. We saw the desk, I wanted to sneak a hipshot picture, but I liked our tour guide too much to blatantly disobey her. So we took pictures in our mind.
- She wrote sometimes for 16 hours a day. She taught herself to write with both her right and left hand so that she could just keep going. Her pen couldn’t keep up with her thoughts most of the time.
- Little Beth (third sister) was the Angel of the house, but we all decided on the tour that the mother, Abby Alcott was the arch-angel of the house. She came form privilege and money but then gave it up to marry for love. The Alcotts moved like 27 times before finally settling in the Orchard House. They were always struggling financially. Abigail worked to help support her family and found positions for her daughters to also work. Part of the reason Lousia wrote was to help support her family. Abigail seemed to be fiercely dedicated to her girls, to raising them to be strong and good and complete.
- Louisa had a “mood” pillow. It was set different ways on the couch to indicate Louisa’s mood. If it was one way than it was safe to talk to her, if it was turned the other way she was in a mood, or busy writing and was to be left alone. Hazel LOVED this idea and now has her own mood pillow.
- Louisa’s first book is called “Flower Fables” and is a collection of stories that Thoreau told her as he walked with her through the woods. She had a huge crush on Emerson and seemed to always be mingling with all those great minds.
- The group of people who lived in Concord during that time were INSPIRED. Amazing things happened within that group of people at that time. Connections are so important to furthering ideas. That afternoon when the kids got out of school we took a trip to the Science Museum. I love that view from the Museum. We got to see a free IMAX film about the Galapagos as part of the MOS Free Friday Films. My mom and I kind of fell asleep, but everyone else loved it. Of course my mom showered us with new books. She knows what we like! These were some serious winners. And then people started throwing up. We spent the greater part of Sunday with barfing children. My mom came to the rescue when, just as we were leaving, all gussied up for church, peter was sick all over himself and me. She calmly drove everyone to church and did all the sacrament meeting wrestling that I normally have to do. Bless her!
On Sunday night (after all of Peter’s birthday festivities) I got to speak with my mom as part of our Stake Women’s speaker series. This was so fun for me. We spent a lot of time preparing (for my sake of course, I don’t think my mom has ever prepared so much for a talk!). It was so fun to talk with her about so many deep issues about life and being present. And to see how her mind works and to work together to put all of our thoughts into some kind of structure. I will always cherish that working time I had with her. And then when we finally got up there in front of our audience it was fantastic. My dad’s a lucky man to speak with her all over the world. She is so full of charisma as she speaks and even though she is usually speaking to total strangers, the room always fills with her love. I hope we get to do that together again some day.
I promise to post some of what we talked about soon. It was all stuff that really has altered the way I’m thinking about life.
And after the event a few friends came over and we talked for a few hours. I think I need a weekly dose of that. I wish I had a picture so that I could remember that evening and all we discussed. Hopefully these words will help me recall it. On Monday she took Emmeline and Charlie each on their own little Grammie Date. Em had earned a trip to get frozen yogurt for filling up that whole happy practicing chart and she was thrilled to have Grammie take her rather than boring old mom.
Charlie and Grammie went together to buy Charlie a batting helmet that he’s been dreaming about.
Oh how we love that Grammie.
As I drove away from the airport after dropping her off, thinking of all that she did for us in that little extended weekend I lost it. How did I get so lucky to have this woman as my mother? She has loved me my whole life, I’ve always known that, but to watch her love in action? To see it transform my children? I can see that it’s got a supernatural power to it, a power that has blessed my life beyond what I can comprehend but that I can see a little more clearly as it encircles my children, arming them for life in this world.
I know I’m sounding super over the top here, but really, she’s that great.
(for a better written and more complete account of this trip see my mom’s blog here….)