Discovering Alcott

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Discovering Alcott

When I was a child, I spent all my free time reading. I loved the Nancy Drew series of mysteries and even read a few Hardy Boys. I also read every other book available in our house, especially the children’s book I read to my younger brothers and sisters. Each of them had a favorite book. Those books were read over and over at bedtime or to entertain them while my mother was busy. As I grew older, the responsibility of reading to the other children passed to my younger sister, Cathy.

I looked forward to summer vacations because that meant more time to read books that I chose. There was no library in our small town but my mother had lots of books. I also had a two friends, girls who were the only child in their families, and they had all the latest books, ones my family could not afford. I had the privilege of borrowing books from them. When I was eleven years old, I discovered Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was a child who noticed details so the author’s name immediately intrigued me. Louisa was my grandmother’s name. I could not remember this grandmother but she was my mother's mother and May is my mother’s middle name, so I felt this had some significance. I was sure that Louisa May Alcott had written something especially intended for me. I did not underestimate how important she would be to me.

In addition to our regular household chores of cleaning, babysitting, bed making and helping with cooking, washing and ironing, my older sister, Marian, and I were old enough now to help with canning and freezing fruits and vegetables. We were aware that this must be done in order to feed the family through the winter. We felt our mother’s worry about being able to provide for us so endured the hot, muggy kitchen when we, or at least I, would much rather have been curled up in a quiet corner with a book.

I was intrigued from the first page of Little Women because it was about four girls and they were talking about being poor. I could feel and understand their worries. Not only that, one of them reminded the others that they were lucky, they had each other, something my own mother often told us we should appreciate. As the story continued I could not help comparing them to my own family.
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