Monday, March 23, 2015

An Incredible Shumway “Happening” in Boston

Hazel, Saydi’s precocious ten-year-old daughter is homeschooling this year in Boston. Far beyond her years in wisdom and intellect, Hazel’s literary challenge was to read 30 children’s classics. She read a plethora of wonderful books, but I was amazed when she finished Little Women. When I talked to her on the phone and asked her what she liked best about the book she said, “Well it was pretty romantic (her one criticism) but I think it was my favorite book. I learned so much from reading it” 

It was then that I decided that it was time for me to read Little Women and then take a trip to Boston to go through Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott’s family home) with her and her mom  (who was also reading it). SO we set the date and we were both excited when we discovered that we could do a lot of other fun things in the four days I was there too.

As it turned out, I picked the perfect time to visit. I just missed snowstorm, after blizzard, after snowstorm but on the day I arrived, there was no snow forecast (until Sunday) and three feet of snow had already melted! All you could see in any direction was giant piles of dirty, snow, concrete and asphalt.

Kids with Snow

Backyard snow used to be up to the the top deck railing and over the fence in the background.


BUT Saydi had taught her children well that “optimism is the best policy” and no one seemed to mind, even though the cold and gray skies were getting pretty depressing for the Boston population as a whole.

It was a delightful little reunion in her cozy little home and we “caught up”!




The next morning Saydi got Charlie 9, Emmeline 6, and Peter, two days away from being 4, to school and Hazel, Saydi and I headed for Concord and The Alcott’s Orchard House.

We stopped at the beautiful old Colonial Inn, started in the early 1700’s for brunch. Pretty sure that Emerson, Thoreau and the Alcotts had eaten there, we enjoyed delicious food and fun conversation.





The Orchard House (named for the beautiful apple orchards that Bronson Alcott planted on their 13 acre plot of land) was only a few minutes away and was purely a delight!



The gift shop was fascinating and we loved the short video they showed before we began the tour. An actress, pretending to be Lousia May Alcott, filled us in on her feelings about her family and her writing. Our guide, Kathy did a terrific job of immersing us into the life of the Alcotts. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but we took a lot of “pictures in our minds.” 

We learned so much, including that since the family was pretty much living in poverty, Lousia  took it upon herself to finance them with her writing. She loved writing wild fantasy stories but her publisher talked her into writing a book directed to young girls (a novel….no pun intended…idea during that time in American History). Based on the story of her real-life family the book was not received with much enthusiasm from her publisher. He handed it over to his niece and several other young girls who were ecstatic about it. The rest is history. Little Women was an instant best seller and has been translated into over two dozen languages By her death at age 55, she had written 30 books.

Joy Kasson wrote, "Alcott chronicled the coming of age of young girls, their struggles with issues such as selfishness and generosity, the nature of individual integrity, and, above all, the question of their place in the world around them." Girls related to the March sisters in Little Women, along with following the lead of their heroines, by assimilating aspects of the story into their own lives.”

What we all  loved as we read the book was Louisa’s character development of the four March girls, whose personalities resembled her own sisters’. We were also deeply impressed with their real-life parents. Her Dad was a philosopher and champion of transcendentalism and her mother (the beloved Marmee) held the family together with her clever abilities to keep food on the table and to help the poor. Both parents were champions for their girls and taught them that there wasn’t anything they couldn’t do. All the girls were well-education and had their own individual passions. Meg became a well-educated governess, refined woman and impeccable wife and mother. Jo (Louisa), now a world-renowed writer, sometimes wrote for 16 hours at a time and learned to write with both hands so she could continue writing when one hand got too tired. Meg, the third sister was an accomplished musician and wonderful humanitarian but sadly passed away at a young age due to the after-effects of scarlet fever. Amy, the youngest was a fiery child who was eventually sent to Paris to study art and because very well-known for her excellent work.  

Being in their house, seeing their beautiful needlework, clavichord, music, art and Louisa’s little desk, made by her father especially for her was delightful. Hazel asked such good question and soaked it all in like a sponge, as did Saydi and I.  Our guide was a never ending source of fascinating information.

We all thought it was quite incredible just to be in the little village of Concord, the home of the Alcotts, the Emerson’s and Henry David Thoreau. The last story the guide told us was simply breathtaking. A young boy was brought to May after she returned from her studies in Paris. His parents said that every time he went to work in the garden, he became obsessed with “carving turnips” into beautiful images. May helped him with her knowledge of art and eventually he was sent to Paris to study. “The rest of the story is that he was the artist who sculpted The Minute Man that now stands in the Minuteman Park in Concord.


And one more thing: The magnificent sculpture of Abraham Lincoln that magestically sits at the end of the reflecting pool on the Mall in Washington D.C. That sculpture’s name was Daniel Chester French.


We all stood with our mouths open as she told us that story! How could all that talent possibly come out of one little New England town from the 1860’s to the 1930’s? Even though she never married, Louisa had a crush on her father’s friend Emerson as she recognized his genius. She also loved what Thoreau taught her while he walked through the beauties of nature with her. She took notes and later wrote a book of poems about what she learned from him. Simply amazing!

There is so much more to say about what we learned but for now, I’m just going to say, “THANK YOU HAZEL! For reading Little Women and getting your mother and I hooked! We LOVED what we learned and LOVED being there with you!

That afternoon, after the kids got home from school, we headed for one of our favorite places, the wonderful Boston Museum of Science. We saw some captivating exhibits and then saw the new IMAX movie, Galapagos. Now that is an IMAX! It was like looking up through a gigantic bowl! 

Somehow the light there was blue. Look at that ice on the Charles out the beautiful floor to ceiling museum windows and that big smile on Hazel’s face with the planetarium in the background. 



After a beautiful dinner (Saydi is an excellent cook) and hearing the kids’ “happys and sadss” at bedtime, we got a chance to talk about the car situation. The Shumway’s van had frozen and was declared inoperable just before I came in at the airport. Saydi was sad but I think Jeff was kind of excited about the prospect of finding a new (different) car. He’s a passionate car guy besides being a great guy!

The next morning was Saturday and I was lucky enough to get be there to see Hazel perform with the Boston Children’s Choir at the Fine Arts Center at Boston University. The performance was impeccable with several choirs singing in three different languages and with lots of gusto. Wish I knew how to post videos, because here’s all I’ve got!




These kids are book lovers…so I had Amazon send them a few. They arrived while I was still there! Josh, you’ll recognize some of these!


The next morning was not only Sunday but the little golden boy Peter’s birthday! The kids woke him up that morning, excited to present him with a little car they had made out of a cardboard box and LOTS of tender loving care and excitement! Look at the cute gifts they scotch taped to his bed! This child is adored by all!



Here is is at his special birthday breakfast.


And a cute hand-made card created by Hazel:




Then the excitement began! Peter just couldn’t seem to make himself eat the lovely mac and cheese that he had requested for his birthday lunch. Just as Saydi decided that he’d have to go to church without eating since we were almost late, he threw up ALL over himself and Saydi!

I drove the other three kids to church. Because he was the bishop, Jeff was already there. THEN during Sharing Time in Primary (the organization for kids from 3-12) six-year-old Emmeline suddenly threw up all over herself, and all those around her. It was apparently bad enough that they had to move all the kids from the Primary room to the gym while teachers and leaders cleaned it up. Not a happy moment for anyone!

Ironically, that evening, Saydi had been asked to give a speech for a women’s group at the church. The title she chose was : Enjoy it….Because it’s Happening! She asked me help give the speech so we had spent a long time the night before working out how to help people learn to live in the present, love the moment and enjoy life more thoroughly!

When I walked into the Shumways house from church with Emmeline, without the others and told Saydi what had happened, she just smiled and said, “Enjoy it….Because it’s Happening!  LOL!

Saydi and I drove through yet another snowstorm to get to the church that night and thought no one would show up…..but according to those who came, “that was nothing compared to what they had been through with all their previous storms.”  In fact everyone was delighted because with that snow storm the All Time Record for Snowfall in one winter in Boston was met…108.5 inches (thank goodness they have something to be excited about)!  We had so much fun giving the speech. I marveled at Saydi’s abilities to reach and teach!



After the speech Saydi invited 5 stellar friends who had come to hear the speech, most of whom came a long way and seldom sees. I was incredulous of the wonders they had accomplished and continued to do so with their lives and their families. 

After our visit and a dazzeling dessert prepared by Saydi that morning we went upstairs to see  Jeff, who had stayed home to take care of the kids (except Hazel who came with us to run the power point). He reported that Emmeline had thrown up three more times and Charlie once!  When I went in to their bedrooms the next morning, I had to giggle as I found large “barf bowls” in each child’s bed, just in case!  We crossed our fingers that Hero Jeff wouldn’t throw up on the Mayor of Philadelphia with whom he had a meeting the next day. Luckily…He didn’t. 




The next day was my last and we filled it with talking, a little cleaning and Grammie Dates with Charilei and Emmeline, who by now felt fine.

I forgot to take a picture of Charlie on our little date, with his new batting helmet, which, since he is crazy about baseball, was a hit! I had so much fun with our one-on-one time together!

Then I took Emmeline for frozen yogurt which was a dual event since her mom had promised her a trip to this fun place if she filled in her practice chart. We had such a nice chat!



We finished our time together with a delightful little talent show with Hazel on the piano and Emmeline dancing to the music, Charlie on the cello and Emmeline on the violin and Peter playing his own creation on the piano, all of which was pretty incredible!

That was a four days to remember!  I loved all I learned about this wonderful little family: the great conversations with kids and adults alike, learning how to cook new things with Saydi, the reading aloud, seeing how Hazel did her schoolwork on the computer, the love between siblings (and the fights were entertaining too) and thoroughly got caught up in “Enjoying it….Because it was happening.”

I left just in time. Sorry to say that Emmeline threw all that up right after I left. I can see why! Sorry Saydi!



Unknown said...

My daughters loved the movie Little Women that they took to calling me Marmee! (When they weren't calling me Motthheerr in frustration!
Josh picked some great books. Saydi might enjoy anything by Susan Wise Bauer. She was home schooled and now home school her children as well as teaches at College of William and Mary. She is a VERY well educated person and her books are inspiring.
Sounds like a magnificent trip!

Heather said...

So fun. I love Louisa May Alcott's writing. Old Fashioned Girl is really good too.

bostonshumways said...

Mom, you are awesome. Thanks for this write up. I just wrote about it on my blog and then saw it here on yours. I love how yous see the world. Mostly how you see me. It's good to have your perspective on my and my life. I love you. Thanks for coming out.