Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Little Women: Its Meaning to Me

Finally, the last one. What it meant to me.

I just thought those four sisters had so much fun together. They used their imaginations. I was definitely an "imagination girl" growing up. They made it seem fun to be poor. I didn't have a lot growing up, but I had love. I didn't have a lot of things, but I had my imagination. It gave me a true appreciation for the mind. I play acted like they did. I was swept away by my dreams. I had what was called a "rag bag" (probably because that is what it was called when my mother was young). The rag bag was like a pillow case probably and it was full of old clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry my mother was no longer using. I played dress up often with those throw aways.

We used to set up fairs in the back yard, makeshift booths of games we made up similar to ring toss, etc. We even had rides (the swing set, the slide). You paid a nickel probably for each game or ride. Then we had money to buy penny candy at the store. That's something you don't see any longer. My brothers took old bike parts and pieces of wood and built go carts which we'd ride down the alley. I could go on and on. The point is that we used our imaginations and what little resources that were on hand. We took such pleasure in simple things, as did the March girls.

I wanted to have an attic space like the March family (I sort of do today). I used to love to go into my grandma and grandpa's attic space and look through old boxes of stuff, including some navy uniforms that had belonged to my uncles and my father, a raccoon coat that had belonged to an aunt of mine, etc. My attic is a mess, but a mecca for a child who has an imagination and wants to explore. One day...when grandchildren come, I hopefully will still have it.

The March girls were a little bit old fashioned and a little bit ahead of their time. I'm a little like that. Their old fashioned way of life, wearing long dresses, making do with what they had to gather Christmas gifts for Marmee...that all appealed to the little girl me. At the same time, Marmee was ahead of her time. She pushed her girls to be independent and self-sufficient. She didn't want them to marry just to be taken care of. She wanted them to marry and be happy, whether they married someone with money to support them or not. She wanted them to be honest and have self-respect.

Finally, what can I say...I ended up having four daughters of my own. I've been a sort of Marmee I think. I hope I've taught them to appreciate the simple things. When they were small, we had a lot less than now, but more than some. I never bought them game systems or electronics. I mostly encouraged them to pretend. They had dress up clothes. I exposed them to many of the old movies and musicals. I remember when their high school put on Bye Bye Birdie, Cate and Kelly came home and were astounded that so many of their peers had never even heard of it (not that it is up there with quality musicals). We always read aloud. We made cookies, we played board games. Sometimes we had...gosh I forget what we called it...but a sort of night when we pretended we were living before electricity. They made tents using blankets over furniture, or we'd set up a tent and sleep outside in the back yard.

As they were growing up I would try to match their personality with that of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. They didn't fit perfectly, but it did seem that each of them shared certain characteristics of the March girls. Beth was the sensitive musician. That was Kelly, who has often told me..."Thanks mom, I'm the one who dies." Cate was Jo for her acting. Mary matched up with Amy who liked to use big words, often mispronouncing them (it's TRUE Mary), and that left Meg and Erin, who I think share some characteristics, although Erin may be a mix of different ones.

Well, you can maybe see why I've had a connection with this wonderful book. It all began with reading and becoming immersed in the lives of the March girls. I was right there with them...I felt like I was one of them. The rest just fell into place in my life.

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