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Friday, December 10, 2010

on diligence and little women

Last week I forced myself to leave the house with the children to go to the library. We have been having cold weather and as such I feel myself slowing down, conserving energy for the long winter ahead.

Any time I say that it is always in capital letters. The Long Winter. Like the Little House on the Prairie book where ma and pa and the girls nearly die on the frozen wasteland of South Dakota.

The. Long. Winter.

This is what I feel I am facing. But, nonetheless, leaving the house occasionally is necessary for one’s sanity. So I do what every frugal mom of young children does. Go to the library. In the rich fancy suburbs. The NICE library. Complete with a dress up clothes room, a play kitchen, toys all over, and a coffee shop attached. PERFECT.

So we go, we play, we pick out some knight books (I figure if he is gonna play knight I want him to know about some general knight-lore and the whole chivalry/courteous/noble side – although I was disappointed to see the “quests” mainly described as rescuing damsels in distress.) Then as we head out to go get hot cocoa and coffee (and Cheetos) I think, I want a book. I want to read Little Women.

Little Women.

I loved this book as a girl. And went to see it, as my sister reminded me, with three of my own sisters when it came out on the big screen in the 90s. (A great movie... Remember back when Winona Ryder was cool?? And she hung out with Gwyneth and everyone wanted her hair?? Before she was a washed up has-been?? I feel bad for her. Oh, and also Clare Danes (Beth), and kinda Kirsten Dunst (Amy) too. All has-beens. Interesting…but I digress.)

So that is what I have been doing this week, instead of blogging (or working, or doing knitting projects).

Reading Little Women. For the first time in … well, a long time.

It really is such a sweet lovely book. I nearly cried at the opening scene where the girls are sitting around being silly and bickering and then decide to spend their spare dollars on their mother for Christmas. And then Marmee comes in from the cold and they all scurry around her to take care of her. So sweet.

And then where Jo cuts off her hair, oh. I did cry then.

“As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet and a general outcry arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short.

“Your hair! Your beautiful hair!” “oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty!”
So like sisters. To argue and pester and love and adore and say things like “your one beauty!”

Love it.

And reading this book as an adult now, and a mother too, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Making due when money is scarce. Raising good kind children who contribute to their world. The love and sacrifice of sending your husband off to war. Biding your time with your girls, not whiling away, moaning, but working, diligently, until your family is reunited again, making that time of togetherness all the sweeter. My generation knows nothing of this sacrifice. I mean, doesn’t it kind of seem that way? And I am pointing to myself here too. It feels like “diligence” and “duty,” especially in regards to maintaining a household, is not only out of vogue but out of our vocabulary altogether.


Teens today (I can’t believe I just wrote that, you DARN TEENS, HA HA.) if they read at all (all that Wii baloney, HA HA HA), read fluffy nonsense with heroines who pine and connive until they get their way (and I TOTALLY read and enjoyed these books too…remember I am all about escapism literature so, I get the fluff and nonsense desire. But…too much fluff and nonsense. Well, no good. And here I am still writing in parentheses. Why do I do this?)

I know.

I totally sound like an old fuddy duddy.

And I just used the term fuddy duddy. So there is that.

I just think a lot of these classics have been discounted. And it makes me sad. They are like old friends -some of these books - and their wisdom from the past still stands true today.

Witness, when Jo gets so angry with Amy for burning her manuscript, and nearly misses Amy drowning in her attempt to escape her little sister down by the river:

“Don’t cry so bitterly, my child.” (Says Marmee to Jo) “you think your temper is the worst in the world but mine used to be just like it.”

“Yours mother? Why you are never angry!”

“I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”

The patience and the humility of the face she loved so well was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecture, the sharpest reproof. She felt comforted at once by the sympathy and confidence given her; the knowledge that her mother had a fault like hers, and tried to mend it, made her own easier to bear and strengthened her resolution to cure it; though forty years seemed rather a long time to watch and pray, to a girl of fifteen.

Ok. It sounds so trite, especially out of context but, still what a lesson to learn. What a gift to give your child. You know? It IS hard. I try too, every day!

I read this chapter the day after I found myself an inch from little man’s face, bellowing back at him (after he bellowed at me) to PLEASE NOT SHOUT AT MAMA. His eyes welled up with tears and he looked at me with such sadness and hurt.

And as I read this later, curled up in my quiet living room after little ones were asleep, I thought yes. Yes, one can work at it. And be diligent. And also be diligent at the hundred other little things that make mama crazy. The missing shoes. The heaps of dishes. The scattered toys. The tantrums and tears.

Diligence is a good word. Working to be a better person for your kids, and yourself, is a good thing.

(Preaching to self here.)

Sparkling vampires don’t teach that so much.

So. Go hug your sister, if you are lucky enough to have one, and then go tackle those dishes, or that report, or whatever you are called to be diligent at in this season of your life.

And maybe re-read Little Women one of these days. An old friend may be waiting to say hello.

Happy Holidays!


  1. sara, i was totally thinking about twisting straw into logs today, looking at the five foot tall pile of wood that my husband and boys brought in yesterday when he heard that the high on sun was supposed to be 2, yes 2 degrees (it still sounds ferouciously cold to us southern transplants....)

    but as to little women, we are reading little men this year... i thought maybe i would start the boys with something a little more their tempo and ease them into little women! :)

    as to dillegence my dishes have been done for two whole days! and not because we ate take-out and used paper plates either! whoo-hoo!!

    and here's a hug for you!!


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  3. And I was so touched to see my "Little Women" this week being the girls from that book....loving, sharing, encouraging, respecting each other. And here is a quote for all of you that I have lived with for many years......."There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory." Sir Francis Drake Merry Christmas!

    December 11, 2010 8:28 AM

  4. little women is on my list of things to do once my graduate list of things to do is checked off. i cant wait to read it again.


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