"Who is Louie?" my oldest daughter asked, holding up a small book with a worn, embossed cover. She and I were kneeling on the dusty floor of my mother's attic, rummaging through a huge metal trunk containing our ancestors' belongings. The trunk had arrived decades earlier following the death of an aunt, who likewise had inherited it from her aunt.In 1951, sixth grade was still a part of elementary school. One sixth grade teacher decided to put on a two-hour play of Little Women, looked over the fifth-graders, managed to get the cast she wanted assigned to her class the next year, and chose me to play Marmee because she considered me "stately" (yes, 63 years later I still remember the word "stately"). We spent the whole school year practicing our parts, had authentic costumes made for each of us, had a complicated stage background made for us, and were pictured in the Chattanooga newspaper article about our production. We performed the show twice, for the students and also separately for the parents and community. It was a wonderful event in my life.
I came to love Little Women (if I'd been part of that family, I would have wanted to be Jo, of course) and I especially loved Marmee. I'm still friends with Shirley, who played the part of "my" daughter Meg, whose "twins" in the sixth grade play were dolls belonging to my sister and me. Shirley is now taller than I am (more stately, in other words), and I'm the one who had twins in real life, rather than Shirley. It should come as no surprise to you that, when I saw Marmee and Louisa on the shelf when I went to the St. Louis County Library to get a new library card, it's the book I chose to check out.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. Click here for today's Mister Linky.