Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich – Susan’s Newsletter October 2015 and December 2007



December 17, 2009  & December 20, 2007 Susan’s Newsletters
                             followed by October 22, 2015 favorite quotes and excerpts
A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
      “Time passing…stop the winds…stop the winds…”
      Death of her young baby at birth.  Death discussion with husband before his death.  Grief.
      Dreaming – keeping ALIVE regardless of immediate circumstances.  Keeping LIFE.
      Motherhood thoughts after being thought of as “narrow” because home as a mother.
December 20, 2007 Susan’s Newsletter (Christmas on the Prairie)

Good morning.  I’ve typed and typed and taken out and put in different paragraphs that I’ve underlined. I’m not going to change anything else.  If I leave out any more paragraphs some of you that would’ve been encouraged or helped wouldn’t get the chance.  My fingers ache, but I want you to have these thoughts this week.  If I could count the times I’ve heard as you check out – “I can’t believe it’s December 16th…” or whatever that particular day was….none of us can  believe how the calendar passes by without us having a chance to catch our breath or watch our children grow or have silence for ourselves.  During the snowstorm last week I pulled down one of my treasures, A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich.  This is the story of a woman, Abbie Deal, from childhood to her death on the last page…the thoughts, dreams, struggles, peace of a woman through her life. 

Her recurring theme is the passage of time – how frustrated she is with the winds that take Time – that won’t stop…..I hope you find encouragement from these paragraphs.  I don’t want you to roll your eyes that this is too long – the thoughts are so important, and I truly believe we all can slow down time.  By turning off the electronics.  By going to bed earlier with books.  By holding our children.  By looking into the eyes of who we love.  By adding silence to the calendar.  We can’t stop time, but the silence can slow it down.  By calling our friends and hearing their voices instead of notes through the computer.  Of stopping by our friend’s homes instead of driving by thinking we’re too busy.  Five minutes with someone we love.  Those five minutes stop the clock.  Slow the clock.  At least give us the chance to see the hands turn, rather than have no recollection of Time passing.  Let’s try to stop the clock a little bit this week.  Light the candles.  Hold our children.  Sit with those we care deeply for.  Time.  We can’t let it get the best of us.  Thank you for letting me type for you – I hope you find this worth reading as I have.

Time as a recurring theme – Time passing in the wind…out of our control how fast the clock spins. Time…As a 12-year old girl looking up at the stars from her covered wagon as they travelled to Iowa. This evening would never come again…the night winds were blowing it away…You could not stop the winds and you could not stop Time. 

Time….As her brother left for war.  She could not stand to let them go…It seemed that life was doing something to her which she could not countenance.  She had a queer sensation of wind blowing past her, – of wind that she could not stop…Oh, stop Time for a few minutes until we can do something about the war. 

Time…In the midst of her wedding ceremony.  Suddenly, Abbie wanted to halt the ceremony.  There seemed nothing in her mind but that odd thought of a wind rushing by, a wind she could not stop, – Time, going by, – Time which she could not stay.  Stop Time for a minute…

Time….The moment she is being told by her husband he wants to move her (she has a toddler and is expecting their second child) to settle in Nebraska.  “But, Will…”  Never had Abbie so thoroughly felt that queer sensation of being swept along by the wind which she could not stop, – of Time, which she could not stay.

Time…As she was hugged by her father-in-law for the last time as they drove away…(she would not return for over 20 years because of hardships).  Abbie’s heart was in her throat.  Oh, stop the wind rushing by.  Stop Time for a few minutes, until she could think whether this move was the thing to do…The wagon lurched, – steadied, – moved on…Abbie’s hand was on her hard, dry throat.  It felt as though it must burst.  Stop the wind.  Stop Time for a minute.  The wagon lurched ahead.  Will’s eyes, full of light of hope and courage, looked to the west.  But Abbie’s, tear-misted, clung to the east.

Description of silence on the open prairie.  This was a silent noise.  There was complete silence, – save for those distant coyotes.  Silence, – save for a faint sound of shivering grass.  Silence, so deep, that it roared in its vast vacuum.  Silence, – grass, – stars.  

On dreaming in the midst of hard times (of a wooden home, fences, red hollyhocks & blue larkspur…)…Will laughed, “You’re quite a dreamer, Abbie-girl.”  Abbie did not laugh.  She was suddenly sober.  “You have to, Will.”  She said it a little vehemently.  “You HAVE to dream things out.  It keeps a kind of an ideal before you.  You see it first in your mind and then you set about to try to make it like the ideal.  If you want a garden, – why, I guess you’ve got to dream a garden.”  Then she looked out at the small plot of vegetables, and laughed, – not quite joyfully, a little ruefully.  They looked so wilted and so lackadaisical, so uninterested in life, those potatoes and turnips and beans…

Two extremes of Abbie’s emotions. (the “waves” bringing tides – back & forth, back & forth – reality of life as Anne Lindbergh writes in Gift From the Sea)  And so she could not throw off the blue mood that had descended upon her, a horde of worries that had come upon her even as the horde of grasshoppers had come upon the land.  The thought that there was nothing to do with; that they could scarcely keep body and soul together; that she probably would never be able now to do anything with her voice; that another child was coming, they all harassed and tormented her.  All fall there was in her mind a tired disinterest over things.  In spite of what he said, that surface courage which he pretended had returned to him, Abbie detected that Will, too, was morose.  To her keen eye he seemed dull and stoical, underneath an assumption of cheerfulness…On the arrival of a crate from the East…her toddlers, older son, and Will all opened the crate…It broke something in Abbie, some tight-bound band around her heart and throat, which had not been loosed for months.  She hid the old brass horn of Dennie’s in the bedroom.  She put away the precious dried apples and pop-corn, the seed-corn and the big solid Greenings from the orchard behind Grandpa Deal’s house.  She hugged the huge warm quilts as though they were the fat pudding-bag body of Maggie Mackenzie.  The bad luck was temporary.  They were young and well.  The children were all healthy youngsters.  Why, how wicked she had been!  She was only 27.  She mustn’t let her voice rust the way she had this summer.  In another year or so she could have an organ and maybe even get to a music teacher.  She mustn’t let youth slip away and her voice go with it….she sung…the children clapped their hands that Mother was singing….

On her child dying at birth – her thoughts on the beginning of a cemetery…Life….birth….death…  Abbie turned her face to the wall.  She lay and thought of her sister Janet and her dead baby.  She could hear the faint pound, pound, of a hammer out at the barn.  Every hammer stroke hit her heart.  They were going to take the baby over tot he Lutz burial knoll.  There was no one there by Dannie and Grandpa Lutz.  Dannie…Grandpa Lutz…and now little Basil Deal…three to make a cemetery.  In a new country you had to make homes and roads and wells and schools…and you had to make a cemetery.  You couldn’t get around it…you had to make a cemetery, too…She lay there and thought of the knoll and the prairie grass and the low picket fence against which the tumbleweeds piled…She hated the barrenness of it.  If she could put him in a shady place it wouldn’t be quite so hard.  But to put him in the sun and the coarse grass and the wind!  She and Sarah would go over and plant some trees some day…

On the ability to make choices to change our attitude in the midst of hardship. (as she watched wagons heading back east of those that were crushed by the hardships…)  Abbie, standing at the door and watching one of those bedraggled-looking outfits pass, said bitterly to Will, “When do you think our time is coming?  Look at the clouds, Will.  Even the clouds seem always going east.”  Will did not answer.  He turned on his heel and went down to the straw-covered dug-out which served as a barn.  Watching him go, in his faded blue shirt and overalls with their many patchings, and his dingy old hat, Abbie called to her mind the fine figure he had made in his wedding suit…Ten years ago!  And the minister at home had said you could do anything with your life.  But that was not so.  Life did things to you.  Ten years!  Small wonder that love would break under circumstances like these.   Standing there in the soddie door, she seemed two personalities.  One argued bitterly that it was impossible for love to keep going when there was no hope for the future, suggested that there was no use trying to keep it going.  The other said sternly that marriage was not the fulfillment of a passion – marriage was the fulfillment of love.  And love was sometimes pleasure and sometimes duty.  “You traitor,” she said suddenly to herself, “You Judas!  As though hard luck could kill my love for Will!  Will’s not to blame.  It’s a fine love that a little bad luck can smother!  It can’t touch can’t.  Love is the light that you see by.  It’s all in the world we’ve got to light our way, and it takes both of us to keep it bright.  And I’m not doing my share…I’m not.  I’m glum and sad and discouraged.  And I’m not going to be any more.  There are only two things that can help us, and that’s our courage and our love.  From this very minute on I’m going to try to cheer Will up more.  I’m through being downhearted.”  She turned to the children.  They were all around the table…Abbie ran to them, closed warm maternal arms around all three, and bumped them together in a return of girlish spirits, so that they laughed at her unusual playfulness, their faces sparkling because Mother was full of fun.  How readily they responded to all her moods.  And how careful she must be with those childish impressions.  She caught Margaret to her.  “It takes faith and courage and love and prayer and work and a little singing to keep up your spirits, but we’re going to do it.”

Emotions of a mother as her daughter leaves for college:  “You’re sure you’ll get along, Mother?”  “Why, of course I’ll get along.”  Abbie was outwardly calm and confident, while all the time there was that queer sensation of a wind rushing by, – a wind she could not stop, – Time going by which she could not stay.  Oh, stop the clock hands!  Stop Time for a minute until she could think whether it was right for Margaret to go away and leaver her.  “Good-by, dear!”  Oh, stop the clock hands!  “Oh, Mother, do you think I ought to go?”  “Of course you ought to go.”  Head up, Abbie was smiling.  “Good-by, then….!”  Abbie waved ands smiled, – waved and smiled, – as long as they were in sight.  Then she turned and ran blindly into her bedroom and shut the door.  And, whether she has driven away in a lumber-wagon or a limousine, the mother whose daughter has left her for the first time, will understand why Abbie Deal ran blindly into her bedroom and shut the door.

Thoughts at her daughter’s wedding ceremony.  Wasn’t life queer?  Such a little while ago, it seemed.  Where had the time gone?  Blown away by the winds you could not stop, – ticked off by the clock hands you could not stay…how the words came back, borne on the breeze of memories!  How swiftly the clock hands had gone around!  Abbie could not speak.  She must shed no tears on her little girl’s wedding day.  So, she only patted her and kissed her, smiling at her through a thousand unshed tears.  And you, who have seen your mother smile when you left her, – or have smiled at your daughter’s leaving, – know it is the most courageous smile of all.

Death.  Discussion between Abbie & Will not knowing Will would die young – soon after – of a heart attack.

“Death…Will.  How the fear of it always hangs over me.”

“Death,” Will repeated it.  “Death…”He looked beyond the poplars, stared for a moment up into the deepening prairie twilight.  “I wonder why we fear it?  The naturalness of it!  Wild geese flying over…cattle coming home…birds to their nests…leaves to the winter mold…the last sleep.  How natural they all are, and yet of them all, we fear only the sleep.  When my time comes I wish my family and friends could think of it that way…”

“If you should be taken away from me, I couldn’t stand it.”

“Oh, yes, you could, Abbie-girl.  You could stand it.  It’s the people who have loved and then lost their love…who have failed each other in some way, who couldn’t stand it.  With you and me…all we’ve been through together and all we’ve meant to each other…with us, it couldn’t be so terrible.  Nothing could take away the past from us.  You are so much a part of me, that if you were taken away, I think it would seem that you just went on with me.  And, I’m sure if I were the one taken I would go on with you, remembering all you had been to me.”

Abbie’s thoughts at the scene of Will’s deathNo one moved.  there was no sound but the children crying.  The cows were coming up the pasture gate.  The leaves floated onto the lane road.  A bird flew into the cedars.  A long wedge-shaped line of wild geese flew low.  Will lay sleeping.  Suddenly, Abbie Deal seemed greater than herself, larger than humanity.  A sense of deep wisdom was within her, a flood of infinite strength enveloped her.  She rose and threw up her head…

Time of Grief:…A story-teller closes one chapter and begins another when time has passed.  Real life is not so.  There is no kind interval of time as the settings of the various experiences shift, – no heart-easing period of days between the chapters of life.  Life is Time’s galley-slave, forever shackled to its relentless master.  If its hardest blow be dealt at three o’clock, then four o’clock must be met and five and six, the first dark, agonizing night and the first pale, torturing dawn.  And so it is unreal, even cowardly, to leave Abbie Deal wrestling with her deepest emotions, – living two lives; one within herself, wracked and tortured, – the other, an outward one which met all the old duties and trivial obligations with composure, – leave her in the garden of her Gethsemane, to meet her many months later.  Only the children kept her going.  Only her motherhood, whose first characteristic was love and whose second was duty, had kept her hands busy and her head unbowed…

Time not stopping…At birth of her first grandchild.  “A grandmother!”  (she spoke to her clock as she wound it again) “I’m a grandmother.  And it’s not quite believable.”  “You — can’t — stop — time — you — can’t — stop — time — you — can’t – “

On motherhood:  A conversation with Will in her head on life not giving her opportunities as she had so desired as a young woman (to learn music, to paint)…And now she was nearly fifty and she was not to know the fruition of any of those hopes.  “Oh, Will, I am so disappointed,”  she said to that invisible comrade who was only spirit and memory.  “I can only feel those things, – not do them.”  “Isn’t motherhood, itself, and accomplishment?”  She knew that she made her own answer, and yet it gave her a sense of satisfaction and peace.  Will might have said it.  It sounded like him.  “But, I’ve made so many mistakes…Will…even in that.”  You are a good mother, Abbie-girl.  Yes, it gave her a sense of peace and comfort.

On her daughter telling her she didn’t want to be a mother – only pursue her dreams…But, Isabelle, if people waited to be rich to have children.  If we!…Oh, Isabelle!…You’d make me laugh if I didn’t feel so like crying.  “Can’t afford it?”  How can you afford to miss it?…little children…their soft warm bodies and their little clinging hands…their cunning ways…miss motherhood??!?  Holding her grandchild…She cuddled her up and put her wrinkled cheek against the child’s firm one.  Oh, why didn’t mothers do it more when they had the chance?  What were clubs and social affairs and freedom by comparison?   Children of her children, she loved them as she had loved their parents.  Did a woman never get over loving?  Deep love brought relatively deep heartaches.  Why could not a woman of her age, whose family was raised, relinquish the hold upon her emotions?  Why could she not have a peaceful old age, wherein there entered neither great affection nor its comrade, great sorrow?  She had seen old women who seemed not to care as she was caring, whose emotions seemed to have died with their youth.  Could she not be one of them?

Her daughter wanting her to travel abroad – believing her mother, Abbie, had lived a “narrow” life…Abbie’s response to her life being called “narrow”……I’ve been part of the beginning and part of the growth.  I’ve married…and borne children and looked into the face of death.  Is childbirth narrow, Grace?  Or marriage?  Or death?  When you’ve experienced all those things, Grace, the spirit has traveled although the body has been confined.  I think travel is a rare privilege and I’m glad you can have it.  But not every one who stays at home is narrow and not every one who travels is broad.  I think if you can understand humanity…can sympathize with every creature…can put yourself into the personality of every one…you’re not narrow…you’re broad.”

Desiring her children to want to know her – not physical questions only.   Her grown children always concerned about her physical comfort….Not one ever said, “Are you sad, Mother?” or “How does your mind feel?” or “Does anything hurt your heart?”

Okay – time has already been taken away today…three hours….where did they go?  Our epitaph tonight for today’s hours…will we make the words worth writing?  Will we be able to say we looked into each other’s eyes – took the time to notice?  Had silence?  Kept dear friends in our prayers….let go of too much in our lives…narrow down our contacts, our commitments….time…it’s blowing so quickly.  We can’t stop the wind, but we can feel it as it goes by….thank you for your encouragement, business, and friendship.  Remember the reason for this week.  The quiet stable.  Susan

Latin for this week:
Tempus edax rerum - Time is the devourer of things (time flies) ...

Works Cited:
Aldrich, Bess Streeter.  A Lantern in Her Hands.  Lincoln, NE.  University of NE Press.  1928.



December 20, 2007 Susan’s Newsletter (Christmas on the Prairie)
A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Good morning!  So many emotions come with the week before Christmas.  No matter what we go through, within each of us (I believe) there is a desire to look forward – to not spend the holiday season with only the memories that might pain us…the desire to find beauty, to find life, to find our souls, to give to others, to see our children singing & laughing.  I have had a hard time finding words to write that are going to give your mind something to ponder this week (I’ve been coming back & forth to this note since five this morning!), so I have decided to type for you out of a Christmas book of short stories I’ve been reading this week by our Nebraska author, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Journey Into Christmas.  I hope that you will see why I underlined these parts & hope that they give you something to focus on as you go into this holiday week, regardless of what your personal circumstances are.  We must continue to strive for celebration, for renewing our minds, for hearing the music.  I loved the Latin line below – Music is a gift from God. The gift that we never have to fear losing!  I can’t resist (even though this will get too long!) another Latin line I read this morning:

Arbor eram vilis quondam sed viva tacebam, Nunc bene si tangor mortua dulce sono” – “I was once an ordinary tree, although living I was silent; now though dead, if I am well played, I sound sweetly.”  (Latin motto from the 17th century on a harpsichord) Don’t you love that!??!?!??!

Christmas on the Prairie (Excerpt from A Lantern in Her Hand):

Everyone was in want that year of 1874…They were beaten.  One could stand a few disappointments and failures, but when everything turned against one, there was no use trying to fight . “Nebraska hasn’t turned against us,” Will would argue stubbornly . “It’s the finest, blackest land on the face of the earth.  The folks that will just stick it out…You’ll see the climate change,…more rains and not so much wind…when the trees grow.  We’ve got to keep at the trees.  Some day this is going to be the richest state in the union…the most productive.  I’ll bet anything next year…” Always “next year”!  It was a mirage, thought Abbie, an apparition that vanished when one came to it.  Six times now they had said, “Next year, the crops will be fine.” And so she could not throw off the blue mood that had descended upon her, a horde of worries that had come upon her even as the horde of grasshoppers had come upon the land.  The thought that there was nothing to do with; that they could scarcely keep body and soul together; that she probably would never be able now to do anything with her voice; that another child was coming, – they all harassed and tormented her…

(Then a barrel & box arrived from the east…)…it broke something in Abbie, some tight-bound band around her heart and throat, which had not been loosed for months…She mustn’t let youth slip away and her voice go with it. She was ashamed of herself that she had not sung for months…  The coming of the barrel seemed to put something back into Abbie which had been gone temporarily, – laughter and hope, courage and faith.  She began planning right away for Christmas.  “You know, Sarah, I think every mother owes it to her children to give them happy times at Christmas.  They’ll remember them all their lives.”

Historians say, ‘The winter of ’74 to ’75 was a time of deep depression.” But historians do not take little children into consideration.  Deep depression? To three children on the prairie it was a time of glamour.  There was not much to eat in the cupboard.  There was little or no money in the father’s flat old pocketbook.  The presents were pitifully homely and meager.  And all in a tiny house, – a mere shell of a house, on a new raw acreage of the wild, bleak prairie . How could a little rude cabin hold so much white magic? How could a little sod house know such enchantment? And how could a little hut like that eventually give to the Midwest so many influential men and women? How, indeed? Unless,…unless, perchance, the star did stop over the house.

(The writing then moves forward to when the children were adults & back for Christmas.)...Far into the evening they sat around the old coal burner, talking and laughing, with tears not far behind the laughter, – the state legislator and the banker, the artist, the singer, and the college teacher.  And in their midst, rocking and smiling, sat the little old lady who had brought them up with a song upon her lips and a lantern in her hand.

Then, to begin a different short story she penned a paragraph that I love to read and picture – can’t leave this one out of the e-mail (grin!)
Bellfield is similar to a hundred other small Midwestern towns . From the air its buildings look like so many dishes clustered together on a flat table.  The covered soup tureen is the community hall. The red vase in the center is the courthouse.  The silver-tipped salt shaker is the water tank.  There are few changes in the ensemble from year to year.  Only the tablecloth is different . There is a vivid green one for spring, a checkered green-and-tan one for summer, a mottled yellow-red-and-brown one for autumn . Just now – the day before Christmas – Nature, the busy housekeeper, had dressed the table in a snow-white cloth for the first time.  It was thin, however, with bare brown places showing through, as though she must patch it soon with more white.  In one of the red-brick dish-no, houses – lived the Lannings…….

Okay! I’ll stop!!!  So much in books that I love to read!!!  I really do hope that you all have time to reflect on what has made you who you are – the good in you.  Bring into your life something (if not a barrel from the east!) – but something that brings you laughter and hope, courage and faith.  We have so much in our blood that has the ability to make us truly LIVE.  What picture in your mind do you want to have in your scene – when you are the “old lady (or man) who brought them up….” – your choices now will inherently find their way into the way our children make decisions in the future.  Let’s continue to have “a song on our lips and a lantern in our hand” regardless of whether the song is for children in our home, or for those we love that are not our relatives, or for those we want to sing to that need us.  God bless your season! Thank you so much for your part in our store and in my song.  Susan


Latin phrase for this week: 
Musica Donum Dei “Music is a Gift from God”
Works Cited:
Aldrich, Bess Streeter.  A Lantern in Her Hand.  1994.  University of NE Press.  Lincoln.

Susan's Thursday Morning Note October 22, 2015
Bess Streeter Aldrich - NE author.  Misc. favorite quotes and thoughts.  The years glide by... 

Good morning.  Darkness outside my window.  As if there is absolutely nothing on the other side of the pane.  The lyrics coming from Julie Andrews’ voice enters my mind from The Sound of Music. “What will this day be like?  I wonder…What will the future hold?  I wonder…”  Complete stillness.  Inside the pane the angel of dawn already has made her appearance.  She hands me a little bird nest found near my child’s makeshift first base.  Showing me the delicate handiwork of my loyal little bird quietly overlooking the scene.  Encouraging me to look down to the details of the earth and up to the heavens to gain the morning perspective of eternity before finding out what this particular day will bring.

I wanted to write for you this morning from Bess Streeter Aldrich’s short story, Gingerbread Cookies, published originally in 1920.  This story has crossed my mind repeatedly as we now brought Gingerbread Cookies to our cookie store for the season.  Her character a little 12-year old boy having a miserable day.  Regardless of where his life is played out on this particular day (from storming out of a kitchen, to a friend’s house, to a train, and back to his room miserable the same evening) he always is handed by another character in each scene a Gingerbread cookie.  To the point of hating them so much by the end of the day.  A story I always loved because of how Aldrich tied all of the scenes to that particular cookie.  At the very end of the day his mother, who had been out of town, returns home to learn that her son is upstairs miserable after a day that never seemed to end for him.  Unaware of his Gingerbread connections, she goes to her kitchen, picks a few Gingerbread cookies for him and enters his room.  Just an ironic fun ending for us as we observe in our minds the life of this little dear miserable child.  I am unable to find exact lines to type for you that are worthy of print here, so instead I have found some of my favorite Bess Streeter Aldrich quotes from a variety of her books.  I have treasured her books from so many time periods and situations in my life.  She has the uncanny ability of keeping the eternal perspective of life.  To show how quickly time passes, but how beautiful every age is.  Her famous recurring thought from A Lantern in Her Hand, “...the years glide by…stop the time…you can’t stop the winds from blowing…you can’t stop time.”

“You can’t evade a thing. Those who try to get around it are weak. Those who meet it gallantly are strong. So many women try to dodge life. They don’t economize because it’s inconvenient. They don’t work because it’s tiring. They don’t have a child because it’s painful. They don’t look at the dead because it’s saddening. Face them all, Laura. Face them squarely and meet them gallantly… as your grandmother did. For every one of the old experiences will be there… birth… marriage… death… disappointment… grief… little joys… little sorrows. You’ll have to meet them all. It’s part of the story…” 

“I think that love is more like a light that you carry. At first childish happiness keeps it lighted and after that romance. Then motherhood lights it and then duty…and maybe after that sorrow. You wouldn’t think that sorrow could be a light, would you, dearie? But it can. And then after that, service lights it. Yes. I think that is what love is to a woman…a lantern in her hand.”

“I’ve tried to keep pleasant,” Mabel went on. “You don’t know how I’ve tried. I have that verse pinned up on my dresser, about “The man worth while is the man who can smile, When everything goes dead wrong.”  “Take it down,” Mother said cheerfully. “If there’s a verse in the world that has been worked overtime, it’s that one. I can’t think of anything more inane than to smile when everything goes dead wrong, unless it is to cry when everything is passably right. That verse always seemed to me to be a surface sort of affair. Take it down and substitute ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.’ That goes to the heart of things–when you feel that strength, then the dead-wrong things begin to miraculously right themselves.” 

“She wondered why she, herself, was always touched by such infinitesimal things. Their very homeliness and lack of worth seemed connecting the past with the present all the more. It was true, she thought, that the big things awe us but the little things touch us.” 

“A person may encircle the globe with mind open only to bodily comfort. Another may live his life on a sixty-foot lot and listen to the voices of the universe.”

“That was the trouble of being old. Your body no longer obeyed you. It did unruly and unreasonable things. An eye suddenly might not see for a moment. Your knees gave out at the wrong time, so that when you thought you were walking north, you might find yourself going a little northwest. Your brain, too, had that same flighty trick. You might be speaking of something and forget it temporarily,—your mind going off at a little to the northwest, too, so to speak.

“All my girlhood I always planned to do something big…something constructive. It’s queer what ambitious dreams a girl has when she is young. I thought I would sing before big audiences or paint lovely pictures or write a splendid book. I always had that feeling in me of wanting to do something worth while. And just think, Laura…now I am eighty and I have not painted nor written nor sung.”  “But you’ve done lots of things, Grandma. You’ve baked bread…and pieced quilts…and taken care of your children.”  Old Abbie Deal patted the young girl’s hand. “Well…well…out of the mouths of babes. That’s just it, Laura, I’ve only baked bread and pieced quilts and taken care of children. But some women have to, don’t they?…But I’ve dreamed dreams, Laura. All the time I was cooking and patching and washing, I dreamed dreams. And I think I dreamed them into the children…and the children are carrying them out…doing all the things I wanted to and couldn’t.” 

“Mrs. Schneiderman’s theory of life was that earth held no sorrow that food could not heal.”

“You know, Grace, it’s queer but I don’t feel narrow. I feel broad. How can I explain it to you, so you would understand? I’ve seen everything…and I’ve hardly been away from this yard….
I’ve been part of the beginning and part of the growth. I’ve married…and borne children and looked into the face of death. Is childbirth narrow, Grace? Or marriage? Or death? When you’ve experienced all those things, Grace, the spirit has traveled although the body has been confined. I think travel is a rare privilege and I’m glad you can have it. But not every one who stays at home is narrow and not every one who travels is broad. I think if you can understand humanity…can sympathize with every creature…can put yourself into the personality of every one…you’re not narrow…you’re broad.”

“Abbie would stop in her work and utter a prayer for him,—and, sent as it were from the bow of a mother’s watchful care, bound by the cord of a mother’s love, the little winged arrow on its flight must have reached Some one,—Somewhere.” 

“Oh, why couldn’t they know? Why did an old woman seem always to have been old? Abbie was back on the knoll near the Big Woods, singing…her head thrown back…her thick hair curling and rippling over her creamy white shoulders. Why couldn’t they understand that once she had kept tryst with Youth? Why didn’t they realize that some day, they, too must hold rendezvous with Age?”

“A piece of rusty pump and a pile of stones,–all that was left of the place he and Marthy had called home. Home. What a big word that was. Lots of attempts made lately to belittle it. Plenty of fun poked at it. Young folks laughed about it,–called it a place to park. Everybody wanted to get some place else, seemed like. They’d find out. They’d understand some day. When they got old, they’d know. They’d want to go home. sometimes in their lives everybody wanted to go home.”

“And now, she felt the presence of Grandmother Deal, as always—that same unexplainable presence of the woman who had mothered them all, whose love for her children and her children’s children was so deep that after all the years it still seemed a tangible thing, delicate and rare, like the faint subtle odor of a fine perfume.  Could such things be, she wondered vaguely…? Could the loved dead come back? At a time like this, was the memory of them so keen to one sensitive like herself, that they only seemed to return and mingle with those to whom they had been devoted? Or was there in some way unknown to humans, a definite magical blending of these imperishable spirits with the mortal spirits of those they had so deeply loved?”

Thank you for letting me again enter your world.  The musical continues to play in my mind, “What will this day be like?  I wonder.  What will the future hold?  I wonder…”  Today can we keep this particular advice at the forefront of our minds, advice written in script almost 100 years ago from Bess Streeter Aldrich?  This particular encouragement from her, You can’t evade a thing. Those who try to get around it are weak. Those who meet it gallantly are strong. So many women try to dodge life. They don’t economize because it’s inconvenient. They don’t work because it’s tiring. They don’t have a child because it’s painful. They don’t look at the dead because it’s saddening. Face them all, Laura. Face them squarely and meet them gallantly… as your grandmother did. For every one of the old experiences will be there… birth… marriage… death… disappointment… grief… little joys… little sorrows. You’ll have to meet them all. It’s part of the story…” 

Our story.  Our song.  Minor harsh movements in our composition.  Beautiful movements.  All make the song.  Our beautiful song called life.  Thank you for coming into our store for your toys, gifts, cookies, and books.  Possibly the next time you walk out of our door you will find a book holding words that will change the movement you are currently playing in your song of life.  You will for sure leave with a few moments of peace, smiles, friendship, and crumbs on your lips!  Susan

Latin for this week:

cunae – a nest for young birds
Vne ego faciam hodie – I wonder what this day will bring.

Works Cited:
Aldrich, Bess Streeter.  The Collected Short Works 1920-1954.  Lincoln.  University of NE Press.  1999.
Aldrich, Bess Streeter. A Lantern in Her Hand.  Lincoln.  University of NE Press.  1994.