Marguerite’s Musings: Happy birthday, Grandmother Edna!

Grandmother Edna was born on Christmas day in 1882. My mother told me how Edna hated having her birthday on Christmas. She claimed to always get shirt shrift as a child when it came to gifts and attention on her birthday.

For Edna, Christmas meant books as gifts; each book contained sweet messages from family members. Edna’s gifts of books to her two daughters on Christmases past ended up in my hands as an eager young reader with the date on the inside cover and a Merry Christmas from “Dearie,” which is how her daughters addressed her, and not “Mother.” Oh, what a scandal it was in those days not to call one’s mother by her role. I loved the Louisa May Alcott series starting with Little Women, all the way through to Jo’s Boys.

Christmas meant holly and mistletoe to Grandmother Edna, plus hand-made sachets of dried roses and lavender, storytelling next to the fireplace as holiday tree candles burned on Christmas eve and the kitchen buzzed with talk of fruitcake, candied pineapple and citrus. Over the Christmas holidays children sat for hours with picture books and played with toys. My mother collected ceramic elephants, most of them Christmas gifts from Edna, Wilmer, Aunt Ina and Uncle Smith. For me, Christmas was the happiest time of the year when people were generous, when bright flashing electric lights lit lawns and houses all over town, and turkey roasted in the oven with moist chestnut stuffing.

Holiday wrappings and decorations seemed hollow and empty on December 26th. When I was eleven, I couldn’t hide my disappointment that I didn’t get the plastic baby doll from the Sears and Roebuck catalog I wanted so bady. Of course, I never told anyone –except Grandmother Edna, who saw and heard everything from her heavenly perch.

FREE E-BOOK: Alcott, Louisa May. Jo’s Boys, and How They Turned Out. A Sequel to “Little Men.” Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1886.

This particular edition of the Louisa May Alcott books was part of the collection my mother Wilma gave me to learn how to read. Grandmother Edna gifted them to Serena and my mother Wilma on birthdays and holidays. This work by Louisa May Alcott, the sequel to Little Men, is the only one in the series that hasn’t ended up as a film. From a suffrage perspective the book’s important because it reflects changing attitudes about women and their place in the world. The characters speak about temperance, dress reform, and suffrage which translates to a better understanding of the cultural context of our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ lives. This e-book is free from Google Play, though Google might steer you in the direction of a pay version.

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