Comforted by Little Women by Millicent Flake
Last spring I was feeling melancholy, to use an old fashioned word. Our little cat Nellie had died after living with us for 14 years. Cats always choose us, not the other way around, and he had been a big part of the family. I missed his presence on the bed at night, his little mews of hello when I came home, his companionship while I pulled weeds in the garden. I was sad and needed comfort.
I wanted to read Little Women.
Little Women was my favorite book as a young teen, but I had not read it in years. As I grieved the loss of Nellie, I wanted to visit the March home, have Jo pull me to the sofa and commiserate over how hard it is to lose a pet, Beth bring me a cup of tea and some molasses cookies, Amy place a kitten in my lap and Meg give me her condolences. I wanted to step into their 19th century world and be a child again.
So I went to my library and brought home the 1980 edition with its soft worn cover and well loved pages and settled into the 1860’s for a week. Going back to a childhood favorite as an adult is a wonderful experience, and I found myself reading now as Marme, seeing the girls from the mother’s point of view. As I relived their trials and joys, I felt better.
Books have been my friends, counselors, and comforters all my life. If I am going through a difficult time, I read. Sometimes it helps to read about someone who is having a worse time than me. Sometimes I seek guidance to solve my problems. Sometimes, as when reading Little Women, I feel like I am sitting down with a good friend who says, “Yes, I’ve been through that myself.”
Perhaps our pull to the books of our childhood is the desire to step back to a time when life had fewer responsibilities and problems. Going to visit Narnia or the Middle Earth takes us out of the day to day grind and we can relax and enjoy ourselves. Just like calling up an old friend, these books are always there for us.
I recently had a new student come into my middle school media center. Moving to a new school is difficult and the boy looked lost and bewildered. Then he asked me, “Do you have the Warrior series by Erin Hunter?”, and when I led him to the shelf where I did indeed have that series, he smiled at the sight of his familiar friends. He left with Into the Wild grasped in his hand and maybe felt less alone.
My hope is that the young people who visit my media center will find those special friends in books. Maybe thirty years from now they will pull out the Lightning Thief or Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and be reminded of a simpler time in their lives!
Millicent Flake enjoys pairing books with kids as the media specialist at Valley Point Middle School in Dalton, Georgia. She also writes a devotional blog, Under the Magnolia Tree.