The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

margaret olley

Have you ever read Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’? I read this wonderful book out loud to my children last year. Every evening, we would sit on one of their beds, snuggled together, one of them brushing my hair (so nice!), as we laughed and cried over the tales of the March sisters. They talk about the characters now as if they are old friends. When we had finished the final chapter, we celebrated by watching the 1949 movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O’Brien. I wanted to wait until we had finished reading so that they could form their own images in their minds of what the characters looked like.

One of my favourite parts is when Meg and Mr Brooke marry and move in to their “tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front”. I love the descriptions of this small, simple home that is filled with love. Meg’s family and friends all help with the cleaning, arranging, decorating and furnishing of the home, each taking on tasks that they are particularly skilled in. Everyone seems so invested in making this little home as cosy and as beautiful as possible for the young newlyweds, and when Meg’s mother asks “Does it seem like home, and do you feel as if you should be happy here?”, Meg replies “Yes, Mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, and so happy that I can’t talk about it,” with a look that was far better than words’.

I think we can put this into practice in our own homes. For example, making the bed is quite a dull task. I can either pull the covers up and be done with it. Or, I can think about the person who will be sleeping in this bed, about how much I love them, and how I want them to have a good nights sleep. Then I will make sure that the sheets are smooth, that the pillows are plumped up, that the cushions are arranged in a way that looks inviting and cosy. The person who sleeps in this bed will feel cared for, cherished and loved.

Here is an excerpt from the book:-

“There were no marble-topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

I don’t think the Parian Psyche Laurie gave lost any of its beauty because John put up the bracket it stood upon, that any upholsterer could have draped the plain muslin curtains more gracefully than Amy’s artistic hand, or that any store-room was ever better provided with good wishes, merry words, and happy hopes than that in which Jo and her mother put away Meg’s few boxes, barrels, and bundles, and I am morally certain that the spandy new kitchen never could have looked so cozy and neat if Hannah had not arranged every pot and pan a dozen times over, and laid the fire all ready for lighting the minute `Mis. Brooke came home’. I also doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece bags, for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.

People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose, for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought.”

Image:- Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers (1995) by Margaret Olley

4 thoughts on “The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

  1. Have I ever read Little Women? Only about 100 times. I think it is lovely that you read it with your daughters, no doubt in years to come they will look back on those times with much fondness.

    My favourite Louisa May Alcott book is Eight Cousins. .

    1. Hi Sherri, 100 times, wow! It really is the kind of book where you pick up new things each time you read it, isn’t it?
      I haven’t heard of Eight Cousins…I’ll have to look it up.
      Ps…my son, who was 6 when we read Little Women, loved it just as much as his sisters! His favourite character was Laurie. 😊

      1. Stephanie, it would have been more accurate for me to have written I have read Little Women countless times. My apologies in getting a bit carried away, it is one of my favourite books and it is makes me so happy to think of young readers discovering the beauty and simple truths within the novel. I have in the past wondered how much Louisa May Alcott’s writings were influenced by the great thinkers Emmerson and Thoreau who were family friends.

        In my opinion Eight Cousins is a delightful book. I still have my copy, that I saved up myself to buy when I was about 11 or 12 years old. After I read it the first time I wrote in the inside cover “Have read. Book is superb. None better.” Actually I nearly named my blog “Peace and Plenty’ after the two great aunts in the book.

      2. Hi Sherri, I knew exactly what you meant. 😊 I didn’t know that Louisa May Alcott was friends with Thoreau! That makes sense.
        Eight Cousins sounds perfect. My nearly ten year old daughter is looking for something new to read, so I’m going to suggest this book.

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