I cannot count the number of times I’ve read the book Little Women, but I do know I have a new “takeaway” every time I read it. When I was ten years old, I was speechless at the idea that Jo had turned Laurie down. Of course the devastation surrounding Beth’s scarlet fever. Jo’s determination to become a writer…Amy and her love for all things beautiful…Meg struggling to fit in with the more well-to-do girls…the list of impactful scenes is long and differs with each reading according to what is happening in the world around me.
Currently I am reading it with my younger nieces (last summer I read it with my older nieces), and watching them experience it for the first time (in both cases) is rather magical. “She burned off her hair???” Last week we chatted about our burdens, just as the girls within the pages did. The youngest decided rather quickly that she does not appreciate cleaning her room, and the older of the two really struggles with how gross it is to clean the bathrooms.
This was not a question that came up last summer with the older girls, though I did pose the question to myself this time around. “What are my complaints?” “What do I carry on my shoulders?” It has taken me 8 days to come up with something…how fortunate I am to have my biggest struggle be the actual act of figuring out what my struggles are! I love life, I love my family, my friends, my dogs, my job. Sad things happen, but can I really count those as burdens? Life wouldn’t be life without some sadness and worry. And how grateful I am to actually have those things in my life despite the fact that sometimes they bring about some sadness and concern.
Ironically, I came to recognize my “burden” while working on a Little Women project for the girls. You see, Jo has just met Laurie for the first time, and he is feeling a bit under the weather. She decided to cheer him up by bringing over Beth’s kittens, by tidying his room, and by bringing over some of Meg’s blancmange for him to enjoy. Blancmange? What is that? How have I never researched this before?
Well, it turns out that blancmange is a deliciously light dessert that is perfect for early summer weather (though I do believe it was winter when Jo toted it over to Laurie’s sickbed). AND, it turns out that it is a bit of a high maintenance endeavor when you compare it with a quick and easy apple pie or strawberry shortcake. Not complicated, just a lengthy process. You complete step one, then you refrigerate for 4 hours. Complete step two, refrigerate for 2 more hours. Overall, it’s an all-day affair…though in the end, quite worth it.
And so my burden came to mind…”things are just too busy.” Everything, everyone (specifically me) just needs to slow down and take time to enjoy the journey rather than constantly focusing on the destination. I recognize the cliche in that statement, however, the statement became cliche for a reason…it is clearly an idea that is repeated aloud over and over. You can find the statement on refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, and cute little wooden signs that hang on living room walls. Keep this in mind: If we would actually DO it, there would be no need to repeat it so often. And the benefits of slowing down our lives are actually quite immeasurable.
The story ends with my decision…like Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, I have decided to embrace my burden and apply the brakes. Which has led to a second day of making blancmange, because although the endeavor is laborious, the exquisite taste of summer on your spoon makes it completely worth every moment of effort.