A lovely holiday visit to Orchard House, capped off by some great finds!

orchard house in winterMy husband Rich is a good guy. I thanked him several times for “indulging me” and accompanying me to the utterly charming holiday program at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House this past Saturday.

I also had the opportunity of meeting one of you! Robin, it was a pleasure to accompany you on the tour.

An interactive Living History Holiday program, the 45 minute tour included games, skits, songs and lovely yet simple period decorations. Each room of the house featured a staff member in period costume representing members of the Alcott family and nearby neighbors. The year was 1870.

Fairies and fantasy

The theme of this year’s program was Louisa’s “first born,” Flower Fables which was published right around Christmastime in 1854. Louisa placed the first copy in her mother’s stocking inscribed with a letter that read:

2004 Orchard House edition
2004 Orchard House edition

Dear Mother,–Into your Christmas stocking I have put my “first born,” knowing that you will accept it with all its faults (for grandmothers are always kind), and look upon it merely as an earnest of what I may et ydo, for, with so much to cheery me on, I hoe to pass in time from fairies and fables to men and realities.
     Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book is owing to your interest in and encouragement of all my efforts from the first to the last, and if ever I do anything to be proud of, my greatest happiness will be that I can thank you for that, as I may do all the good there is in me; and I shall be content to write if it gives you pleasure.
     … To dear mother, with many kind wishes for a happy New Year and merry Christmas.
I am your every loving daughter
Louy (from Flower Fables, introduction, 2004 special Orchard House edition)

The theme of Flower Fables was seen through the period decorations. We were told that each room contained a snow fairy for us to find.

“Meeting” Louisa

Jan Turnquist as Louisa May Alcott
Jan Turnquist as Louisa May Alcott

In Bronson’s library, we were greeted first by Louisa, played by the executive director of Orchard House, Jan Turnquist. She, in fact, recited Louisa’s inscription as she placed a copy of Flower Fables into Marmee’s Christmas stocking. A lucky little sister and brother had the privilege of carrying the stocking throughout the house as it was filled with gifts, finally giving it to Marmee.

Angel in the house

Our group proceeded upstairs where we met next door neighbor Una Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel. Several of the Alcott family members were missing, bring “out and about” but May gave us a delightful tour of her room with all her sketches on the walls. Her little gift to Marmee was an angel she created in honor of her late sister Lizzie, representing the “angel in the house.” It was a very touching tribute.

Gifts and a play

Proceeding back downstairs, we met Marmee and the children gave her the Christmas stocking, filled to the brim. Marmee was delighted with all her gifts.

The Frost King, from the 2004 Orchard House edition of Flower Fables
The Frost King, from the 2004 Orchard House edition of Flower Fables

The tour ended in the dining room with a play, based on the Frost King, the first Flower Fable. The little boy in our group played the king and was crowned. He looked delighted!

It was such a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas, thinking on such lovely things. Thank you Orchard House!

Great finds!

After some Christmas shopping downtown, I came upon a couple of old books that made my day! They aren’t valuable in a monetary sense but I was sure glad to get them! Here’s what I found:

bronson alcott's fruitlands cover and inside with copyright

I read this book recently after a visit to Fruitlands (more coming on Fruitlands in future posts after Christmas). It’s in good condition and I was hot to get it because of the writings of two Fruitlands participants: Joseph Palmer and Isaac Hecker. It also includes Louisa’s Transcendental Wild Oats and diary entries by Louisa and Anna. I had the PDF on my Nook and had read it that way but to get this … whoo hoo!

And then I found this:

cheney with copyright

This is the first biography written about Louisa by Ednah Dow Cheney called Louisa May Alcott The Children’s Friend. The book was in poor condition so I got it for a song. Just the fact that it has the copyright date of 1888, the year Louisa died, made this a very worthwhile find! It’s pretty much unavailable except through sites like the University of Florida Digital Collections.

Guess my Christmas came early. 🙂 But then the best present of all was our son getting a job after 4 long months of searching. 🙂

Consider reading Flower Fables as a way of getting away for awhile from our troubled world. Louisa’s brand of moralizing through her sweet and unique fantasy tales is like drinking a hot toddy – the warmth just spreads throughout and makes you feel good.

And be sure and share these stories with your children and grandchildren – they will eat them up!

I will be writing more about Flower Fables as well after Christmas. I’ve lined up Dr. Daniel Shealy for an interview – he wrote a wonderful essay on Louisa’s fantasy tales which you can purchase at Book Rags through their Louisa May Alcott Study Pack.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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15 Replies to “A lovely holiday visit to Orchard House, capped off by some great finds!”

    1. My hat’s off to all of you there – you truly do make it “living history.” My husband is not the sentimental type and I wasn’t sure if he was enjoying it or enduring it for my sake but after we left he said that he thought it was very well done and that he enjoyed it. We were lucky to have two such sweet children in our group – I could tell the staff was gearing everything to them and that made it even more special.

      Sorry I missed seeing you!

  1. I sure wish I could have been there!! Christmas at Orchard House
    is beyond mere words!! How wonderful!

  2. Love your rare book finds! So cool that you were able to find them! My vintage LMA collection is my pride and joy.

    Congratulations to your son on his new job!

  3. Sounds like a very special Christmas! Yay for indulgent husbands and bookstore finds and children who keep on the good search during these tough times and succeed. Now tuck those books under your tree! Merry Christmas!

  4. It was a fun program. You found some great books. I would have snapped up that biography but we didn’t have time to make it to the bookstore. Merry Christmas!

    1. Merry Christmas to you too! Next time you come to Concord, make sure you stop at the Barrow Bookstore, behind Fritz and Giggi – just inside the door to your left is all the Alcott stuff – they definitely have the best selection.

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