I love history! As I entered college that was my declared major until I discovered a secondary interest in English. At which point I decided that history would always be a part of my life and to instead hone my craft as a writer. One of my favorite venues to study history is popular stories written during that time period. Historical fiction is nice too but it often has difficulty really capturing the breadth of the philosophies encompassed in a time of the past.
For my Christmas reading list last year I requested Mother by Kathleen Norris. The book was originally published in 1911 and reprinted in 2002 by Vision Forum (see their catalog in the side bar).
It is the story of Margaret Paget, a young woman from a large family. She is the oldest girl with one surviving older brother. A second brother had passed away before the story begans. There are 5 younger siblings. She works as a school teacher, helping to support her family. When an unusual turn of events gives her the opportunity to move to New York City as the personal assistant of Mrs. Carr-Boldt.
The story says of her mother–Mrs. Paget
She had married, at twenty, the man she loved, and had found him better than her dreams in many ways–‘the best man in the world.’ For more than twenty years he had been satisfied to work diligently behind a desk and to carry home his salary envelope twice a monthh. Daddy was steady, a hard worker and so gentle with the children. He delighted in Mrs. Paget’s simple, hearty meals and praised her in his own quiet way. ‘God bless him,’ Mrs. Paget would pray, looking from her kitchen window to the garden where he trained the pea vines, with the children’s yellow heads bobbing about him.
She welcomed the fast-coming babies as gifts from God, marveled over their tiny perfectness, dreamed over the soft relaxed little forms with a heart almost too full for prayer. She was in a word, old-fashioned, hopelessly out of the modern current of thoughts and events. She secrealy regarded her children as marvelou treasures, even while she laughed down their youthful conceit and punished their naughtiness.
Margaret was not interested in following their path, instead she wanted to get out and experience life. And she did through traveling and working with Mrs. Carr-Boldt. She saw the distance between Mrs. Carr-Boldt and her daughters who spent little time together. She saw the empty relationships. The empty lives and mental illness.
At one point she wished her parents had had fewer children so that they could afford more nice things. Even at that time in history 2 children appear to be some hidden ideal of the wealthy for that is exactly what she wished for, just 2 children. Thinking it would include her. Then she remembered that she was the 3rd child and would not have existed if her parents had followed her ideal course.
Over the course of the book she sees the emptiness of the life she had idealized and the beauty of the one she had nearly turned her back on and she finds her way back to her mother.
It is an old fashioned book, unapologetically. And I am an old fashioned girl unapologetically. I highly recommend it.