Louisa May and Me
My childhood was not one that could be described as easy or carefree, but there were some great things about it. One of those was that both my parents read to me. A lot.
Even after they split up when I was just 3, they kept reading to me, whether I was in the countryside with my dad, or in the city with my mom. They both shared their love of language and stories and imagination. (Of course, that shared love of literature meant I didn't understand why some books were off limits. When my mom told me I couldn't read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle because I was only about 8, she later caught me reading it in the living room closet with a flashlight. But that's another story, one that also includes the books Jaws and Rosemary's Baby.)
Another, less gruesome, less graphic novel that made a big impression on me was Little Women.
My mother read to me every night, but for some reason I tend to remember the books my father read to me more. Maybe it's because I spent less time with him, or because he always tackled big books and classics. He especially loved reading series.
He read me a lot of Mark Twain, The Hobbit and the Ring Trilogy, and everything we could get our hands on by Louisa May Alcott. I just loved Little Women. Of course, I identified with the headstrong Jo and her writer's ambitions, but all the girls were charming in their own way.
Once, an older cousin had me and another girl cousin come visit her in the Boston area. We took a bus together, talking the whole way. When we got there, she took us to Orchard House, the Alcott's home in Concord. I still have the pictures from the house we toured. I still remember being amazed at the real story of their lives, that Louisa never married; the kindly professor just something she dreamed up for Jo. That she did have a real life who was artistic - her drawings on the bedroom walls were right there for us to see - under glass!
Later, I read previously unpublished books by Alcott, such as A Long Fatal Love Chase, one of her "blood and thunder tales," a gothic, sad, romance much like the ones Jo is always making up in Little Women.Continued on the next page