Our latest writing assignment for my online writing class on The Habit Community was to write a page from the journal of a minor character in a famous book. It was such an interesting assignment; people did all sorts of great things from Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, Suzanne Collins, the tale of Beowolf and more.
My husband had the idea for my piece, told from the perspective of the rich old neighbour next door in Little Women, which is one of my very favourite books. It felt like treading on sacred ground, trying to slip into the writing shoes of Louisa May Alcott…I really hope you enjoy it!
Mr. Lawrence Ruminates by his Window
Every evening for months, I have heard their voices lifting in song—the four neighbour girls singing with their mother around an old piano. At first, I would shut my windows to block out the sound of their happiness, for its lively youthfulness unearthed memories of my own dear granddaughter, now so silent and still.
I tried to make myself believe that I was simply annoyed at their disturbing an old man’s rest, but it was not irritation at all: it was fear of the sorrow their joy was unleashing in my locked heart, until I could contain it no longer.
Eventually, I began opening my window. I now watch for their work-weary mother to come home through the gate, carrying her baskets and bundles. Her daughters greet her with joy, calling “Marmee!” through the open door.
After an hour or so, I bring my pipe and sit by the window pensively, as if pondering some profound problems, while the smoke wafts into the night air, but I am simply waiting to listen to them sing.
Sometimes, their warbling songs are delightful; other times their girlish voices and soft piano tunes are accompanied by my silent tears, the ones I could not shed when my own little grandchild died. How she had loved music!! Her untouched piano haunts me.
However, anger is a lonely refuge. It sustains me no longer, though I try to hide it from my foolish nephew, Lawrence, lest he think I have grown old and soft.
Perhaps I have. I long to do something for them now that their father is away at war. They must feel it deeply, though they carry their burden cheerfully. That lanky one even leaps over the fence at times; I have to restrain my laughter when I see it through the window. Oh, to have her spring in my step!
But what could a lonely old man do to increase their happiness? Their mother seems too proud to accept money; she bears herself so nobly, and I believe their family was wealthy before her husband’s business was ruined.
If only I could be there with them in that cozy little front room, with the light streaming through the window into the dusk, along with their dear voices…then I could hear the soft tunes of their old piano better.
That is it—a new piano! My granddaughter’s favourite instrument shall be silent no longer.
Here is a short piece I wrote for my writing class about my amazing Dutch Granny. The assignment was to describe someone based on their likes and dislikes, rather than what they looked like, etc. On this special day of remembrance, it seemed fitting to share a little of her story with you.
Every night, Granny Koenig took grim satisfaction in throwing Hitler off her third story apartment balcony. He deserved it; he was trying to steal her jewelry box. The wound of living through two world wars in Holland ran deep enough to be embedded in her dreams, and caused to her to wander the house weeping some nights. But in the bold light of day, she gloried in her nocturnal victories. After all, they made good stories, and she enjoyed telling stories to her three Canadian grandchildren who had come to live with her.
She told them of her father, the German Baron whom she despised for abandoning her poor French mother, who had died when Granny was only five, leaving her orphaned and alone. She relished in telling the children about the naughty things she had done in church, such as what exactly she had put in the holy water, for she had no use for God the Father after her own father disappeared.
Granny Koenig loved to sit in her rocking chair and describe her self-made success… how she learned French and English as well as her native Dutch, and was able to be a nanny for a wealthy American family who took her on cruises, decked out in black velvet and diamonds. How she had cherished that velvet…her fingers thrilled at the memory of its softness.
Granny Koenig despised such things as smoking and drinking, which she had never, ever done. The children tried not to smirk at the picture hanging above her rocker, showing their Granny drawing on a huge cigar with delight. You could forgive an old woman some discrepancies when she frequently bought you popsicles from the newsstand flower shop on the corner, and delighted in chasing your little brothers around the apartment, waving her walking stick in mock anger when they put toy bugs on her neck. In any case, anyone brave enough to hide Jewish children in her house during the war, and to still face the Fuhrer every night in her dreams, certainly deserved to be treated with generosity, even we children knew that.
She knew it might be bad, but she hadn’t expected it to be this bad. It wasn’t like she had done it violently or without warning. Nevertheless, it had plunged her daughter into the depths of despair.
“I will never eat again!” she declared, lower lip trembling as her eyes began to redden.
“That’s too bad; you’ll get pretty hungry.”
“I won’t open my presents. I won’t come to Easter or Christmas.”
“Really? How sad. That’s a lot to give up.”
“I won’t ever let you help me!” she threw out this statement like a well-aimed spear, sure it would conquer her enemy and bring victory.
“You’re only hurting yourself, babe,” her mother deflected the spear with a shield of serenity. “I’m sorry you’re so sad.”
The girl thrust out her jaw and glowered up at her mother with narrowed eyes.
“I’m not sad, I’m angry!”
“Ok, I’m sorry you’re angry, then. But why don’t you go up to bed, honey? It’s time to sleep.”
“I will never sleep. I will just stand by my bed with my eyes open. I will never shut my eyes again!”
“Oh, really?” the woman sighed. Determination was a great trait. To be sure it had helped her daughter finish the steep, two hour hike up the mountain with her Dad the other day, chattering the whole way up. But when it was bedtime, determination to have one’s own way was a distinct disadvantage in a child of three.
“Sweetie, you can play more Reading Eggs tomorrow. I had to turn it off ‘cause it was 9:30. Now it’s 10:15. You have to sleep.”
“I will never sleep!”
The woman rubbed her head and sighed. You can’t fight crazy. She climbed into bed and nursed her baby to sleep. Eventually, the war-weary toddler climbed in under the blankets and hid. That way no one would see her eyes close.
Thank you to everyone who supported me yesterday, on my Dad’s first anniversary of passing away, whether by a phone call, text, email, food, flowers at the door or even a gift basket brought by my sweet neighbour Lorie. It means a lot to be loved and accompanied by you all!Thank you also for your prayers which carried me through the day with a lot of extra peace and grace. We are truly so tenderly supported!
Last week, I was chatting with my friend Sister Angela as she came to drop off some bread and fruit for us (yup, spoiled again) and she said something helpful about loss. That there’s a saying that when you are missing someone, you should do what they would do…strive to imitate the things you admired about them.
So in my Dad’s memory, because he had such a heart for the poor and oppressed, we are going to make a donation to a family who is fleeing persecution overseas, and needs funds to help keep them at a temporary safe-house until they can get their refugee papers completed to come to Canada.
What grabs my heart is that they are good, hardworking people who are fleeing an unjust government, and that they had to leave almost everything behind, except their two children and a suitcase or two. In this precarious situation, with death threats hanging over them, they are trying to be a loving family and reassure their little children who just want to go back to school or play outside. Right now they can do neither.
But for $35 a day they have room and board for the next few months, and help to bring them food. This already is a miracle, as their previous situation was even worse. My dear friends Monique and Ryan who are fundraising for them are in direct contact with them, as one of their relatives is a student of Ryan’s. He explains much more on video updates on his gofundme site.
Please pray for their safety, as for all the paperwork to go through as soon as possible. if you’d like to hear more of their story, or share it with others, please visit the site below: