A still from the movie "Little Women." From the "Little Women" blog post on Rhyme and Reason - Poetry Meets Film Reviews, © 2020 S.G. Liput.
It so happens that I agree with several bloggers who believe “Little Women” (based on Louisa May Alcott’s book by the same name) is a great Christmas movie. I probably should say “movies” because there are at least four versions of it out there.
And I need to confess that Alcott’s book, and the movies that followed it, lodged firmly in my subconscious - so much so that they echo within the Saint Maggie series. The weird part is I never really thought about the connection until a few years ago. I mean, come on, how dense can I get? Frankie is a Jo March-type with red hair! And Maggie has a loving, spiritual core, much like Marmee March.
I didn’t do any of this on purpose. Honest. What happened is some of the values and character traits found in Alcott’s work banged around my heart and head until bits broke out and found a home in the Saint Maggie stories. (I only wish I could write as well as Alcott.)
Not surprisingly, as it does in Little Women, Christmas turns up in the Saint Maggie series, too. One example appears in my first full-length novel.
Christmas of 1860 was difficult for Maggie. A scandal in the town, followed by Maggie’s jail cell visitations with the criminal, put her at odds with the other citizens of Blaineton and with the members of her church. To make matters worse, she was grieving the death of her niece and the death of her own baby due to a miscarriage. And then, of course, there was the possibility of war, as tensions between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America were coming to a head. This caused Maggie’s daughter Lydia and beau Edgar to get married earlier than they had expected, especially since Edgar was likely to join the army once hostilities began.
So, 1860 promised not to be a happy Christmas for Maggie, family, and friends. And yet, some joy and hope manage make themselves manifest.
I’m sure most of us this year can identify with my protagonist as she surfs the ups and downs of a mix of emotions and difficulty as she carries on with the usual Christmas customs. The excerpt below tells the story first through the narrator’s voice and then through Maggie’s voice in her journal.
I want to point out one more thing: the conversation below happens between Eli and Maggie as they walk home after visiting the local orphanage with food and a party. Their chat was kind of a throw-off when I wrote it, but as it turned out, the scene had an impact on the stories that followed.
“That was fun,” Eli commented as he walked arm in arm with Maggie. “That little Bob fellow sure can eat, can’t he? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was my son.”
She chuckled. “He does take after you in that respect. Anyway, if you ask me, you should be someone’s father.”
“Hey, I already am a father – to Lydia and Frankie.”
“Oh, you know what I mean: one of our own. I wonder why I haven’t conceived again.”
“I don’t know. But we could just go ahead and adopt one of those little ones we saw tonight.”
Why is that scene important? Well, Maggie’s act of Christmas kindness had an impact on her life that I hadn’t planned.
It happened like this: During one of my visits to a book club, someone asked, “Are Maggie and Eli going to adopt Bob?” At the time, the idea had not occurred to me, mainly because I hadn’t entertained the idea of writing a follow-up book. But as it turned out, when I began to write the sequel, giving Maggie and Eli a child was a logical step. So, I had them adopt little Bob, and he now is an integral part of Maggie’s family and the series itself.
For my next blog, I’ll talk about the Christmas tale, “The Dundee Cake,” and how it echoes another Christmas story.
Stay safe and well, friends!
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder