On a cool and cloudy day a group of dedicated teachers, writers, academics and hard-core fans gathered together at ground zero to celebrate the love of an author who had, in one way or another, transformed their lives.
Thus was the gathering of the Louisa May Alcott Society as we celebrated ten years as an official organization.
Greeted at the door of Orchard House by sweet lilacs and lovely columbines, the society entered the home where they encountered “Louisa May Alcott,” eager to take the group of 20+ on a special tour of her home.
In the parlor
We sat on the floor of the parlor as “Louisa” lovingly described her home and family, sharing delicious details of the wedding of Anna and John Pratt in that very parlor, the theatrics put on in the adjoining dining room (complete with mad dashes upstairs for quick costume changes) and her impressions of the George Healy portrait hanging there (“I looked like a relic from the Boston fire!” she bemoaned).
Leaning Orchard House
“Louisa” described her father’s rather unique renovations and expansion of Orchard House (“which caused it to lean”) with the addition of the tenant house creating the dining room, kitchen and addition bed chamber above which housed May.
I enjoyed her description of the famous mood pillow, empathizing fully with “Louisa’s” desire not to be disturbed when lost in the vortex of creativity.
We gazed at May’s paintings in each of the rooms, sighed over Lizzie’s piano and appreciated Abba’s fine china before heading upstairs to the room where Little Women had been written.
Where Little Women was written
One can never enter that room without pausing over the small desk where the inkstand (a lovely glass holder with quill pen positioned over it) and pages from Little Women lay. Draped over the bed was Anna’s lovely gray wedding dress. Artifacts and tools of Louisa’s needlework were displayed on a table nearby.
May’s bed chamber produces the same level of awe. As we gazed at her drawings on the wall, “Louisa” described how her sister’s artistic training in Europe caused her to improve by leaps and bounds. Apparently in Europe May was exposed to training that would have been denied her in America, including the study of cadavers (which greatly improved her ability at portraiture). It was this level of training that transformed May into a serious artist. “Louisa” went on to brag how her sister was commissioned to copy the Turners which secured her position in the professional art world.
Special family heirlooms
Entering the master chamber, we were treated to a close-up view of the nursery where Johnny and Freddy Pratt had stayed after their father passed away. Here I found myself with a lump in my throat as I gazed at the dolly that Lizzie had made with the face painted by May. It took all of my strength not to touch that doll.
“Louisa” pointed out the quilt on the master bed made by her mother; that evoked a collective gasp of appreciation.
The magic never ends
We ended the tour in Bronson’s study and May’s art studio where “Louisa” noted with confusion the “chairs all set up” and the “strange device” (TV and DVD player) that filled the studio. What was May up to now?
Orchard House never fails to produce its magic and we all fell under the spell.
The get-together culminated with champagne toasts, sweets, cheese and crackers and fresh fruit, stimulating conversation and vows to continue growing the society.
Judging from the attendance and the enthusiasm, I would say the Society is strong, growing and healthy. It is an honor to be a part of such a wonderful group.
Anyone serious about Louisa can join; dues are only $10 per year. We communicate by email on a regular basis and the website www.louisamayalcottsociety.org, provides resources.
To members of the society: you have helped me to better understand why I am so passionate about Louisa May Alcott. Even yesterday I discovered new reasons to continue my study and build my appreciation of this fascinating woman.
Come and join us!
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