Reflection: On Booze, Pickle Jars, Old Books, Typewriters, and Me

A couple of weekends ago I ran some errands. I bought Ball jars for a weekend pickle project I had planned. I replenished our booze (vodka! bourbon! red wine! white wine! rosé, too!). Near the discount liquor store is an antique/tag sale warehouse that gets new things in every week. I like to go and just… browse. I walked out of there with a new typewriter for my collection. I have quite a few typewriters. This one’s a black Corona, circa 1930-something, in nice shape. I also nabbed a Harcourt, Brace, and World first edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s  The Little Prince (which is not the one that’s worth beaucoup bucks, sad to say). And I got an illustrated copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Let’s talk about Little Women, shall we?

I wasn’t an Anne of Green Gables girl. I don’t know why. I’m pretty sure I didn’t read A Wrinkle in Time until I was an adult. I know I read Judy Blume, but for whatever reason, her books didn’t resonate with me. I was a mother myself by the time the Harry Potter books came out. But Little Women? That book spoke to me. I read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys multiple times as a kid.

About 15 years ago I was in Concord, Massachusetts, and visited Louisa May Alcott’s grave. I shed some tears and left a rose. Then about ten years ago I was in a book group and I suggested we all re-read Little Women. I was shocked, when I started to read it again. I actually put it down and didn’t continue. It was so religious. It was so didactic and preachy and fusty. I thought, “Why did I love this book so much?!” I thought, “What was my Little Women love affair actually based on?” And then the other week I bought this new, old copy of the book.

My life has recently been a bit overwhelming. I’m not going to go into it here, but suffice to say I needed something soothing to my soul. Something familiar. Something that would provide solace. And there, on my kitchen countertop, next to my beautiful black Corona, were Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. I picked up the book and dipped in. And stayed with it. When I got to page 90 I remembered exactly why this book spoke to me.

For those of you who know Little Women, I’m sure it’s no surprise that Jo was the sister I strongly identified with. Probably many of you reading this blog did. For those who haven’t read the book, she’s the one who’s the writer. She’s the one who’s sort of queer. She’s the one with the big mouth and the temper. I sure saw myself in Jo March.

 

Alas, 40 years later I’m Mrs. March’s age and still wrestle with my demons. It’s not specifically having a temper, like Jo speaks of. Louisa May Alcott’s Jo and family instilled something in me when I was a young girl though. It was hope. It was the idea that one could spend a lifetime endeavoring to be a better human being, and that is a worthy endeavor. It was that it is ok to keep trying—to aspire—to be good. That it’s a process. That it’s a journey. Can you tell I’m really enjoying reading this book again?

Sometimes a book can come into one’s life at a particular time when it makes a difference. And then later it doesn’t. And then it can again. Little Women is one of those books for me.

So keep writing, my friends. We writers can impact people’s lives. Children’s literature writers can make a huge difference for a young person—a difference that can last a lifetime—that can give hope and comfort, even when all grown up.

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7 responses to “Reflection: On Booze, Pickle Jars, Old Books, Typewriters, and Me

  1. I love this blog post, Linda! I have had that experience of loving a book so much and then coming back to it in my adult years and not being able to find my way back in–in fact, being bothered by the writing or the content.That happened to me with the Little House books. They changed my whole childhood–I fell in love with literature through Wilder. But then as an adult, coming back to her books, I found myself bored by the details and wondering how, as a child, I got lost in those same details. Now you’ve inspired me, not only to re-read Little Women, but also to try Little House again. And I love that you started this piece with the old typewriter–what is old is new again. Oh–and your description of you in Jo and Jo in you. Truly enjoyed reading this.

  2. I, as well, did not get into Anne of Green Gables. My father forced the book and movie on me, and I treated it as a story about lima beans. Now Little Women…for me was up and down. I loved parts of it, but didn’t understand all of it as a child. I did play one of the characters in a school play. I had to knit while giving dialog. The knitting was horrible because I had no idea what I was pretending to do, which through off my lines. I’m sure I made it a comedy play.

  3. “Sometimes a book can come into one’s life at a particular time when it makes a difference. And then later it doesn’t. And then it can again.” So true, Linda. So very very true.

  4. mallorysbattista

    I think that is, deep down, why many of us write: to try to give something back. I’d wager all writers have been profoundly impacted by literature at a young age, and we aspire to create something that will help someone else. For me it was Harry Potter and the Redwall series. Thanks for this post.

  5. Gerry Walker

    The old typewriter at the top of your blog triggers my memory of grandad (subject of my book CrackerBoy which you didn’t care for!) who only went to the 4th grade before his family moved to Fla to homestead on South Hutch in 1886, living on a houseboat with a cook tent on their homestead land. Grandad could type up a storm on his old Underwood; I still have a letter or two and his little black notebook with notes of the trip down from PA via train and ferry which I treasure.
    I too love Little Women; as I’ve aged I buy books particularly series like Clan of the Cave Bear and now Outlander so I can reread them every few years. Such a comfort! and always something new comes out of them.

  6. Yup. I love that great books — how we can return to them as different people, and they will speak to us in different ways. Or not speak to us. Funny you mention Wrinkle In Time. That’s one of the childhood books I’ve gone back to multiple times in this way (along with Charlotte’s Web).Little Women, on the other hand, I only read once, and only because it was assigned to me in library school.

  7. Beautiful post, Linda. You’ve inspired me to read Little Women again.
    I hope you make it through your tough spot very soon. Thank goodness for books, right?