Mother Carey’s Chickens
A heart shaped winter bonnet for a toddler rests in Grandma’s Someday Box with a set of mittens and a pink-as-can-be cap with white hearts and a tassel.
They are Grandma’s knitted tokens of love.
May I share some thoughts with you, too?
Pages That Glow in the Dark
“I like the mother in this story,” a friend wrote inside her gift-card. I unwrapped the parcel and beheld a copy of Mother Carey’s Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggins. The book cover is as pretty as her card and the gesture of the gift so thoughtful, that I displayed the book in the parlor. When it needed to give place to Christmas greenery it joined the pile of books by my bedside.
The winter months are dark months. Never mind. The pages of this children’s novel glow in the dark. They chase away the winter blues. And yes, my friend is right. I do like the mother. She exemplifies what Mark Twain said about his mother.
"My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart – a heart so large that everybody’s grief and everybody’s joy found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.”
At the end of a day all-a-whirl of activity light reading may be all a mother can digest. On such days a chapter of Mother Carey’s Chickens lends a friendly hand of calm. Fifteen minutes of silent reading bring a chapter to a close. And when the book and eyelids are closed, too, a peaceful repose will follow. This is surely a “feel-good” story. It demonstrates the love within a family circle – love that spills over to a widening circle of friends. The characters “consider one another.” It is something the young ones learn with just a touch of growing pains.
The story was published in 1911 with a setting that takes place at the turn of 20th century in New England. The Carey family is a happy one although Father Carey is in the navy and must be away much of the time. His salary provides his wife with a chambermaid-nanny and cook. Early in the story Father becomes seriously ill and dies. Mother Carey’s chickens (her children) are thoughtful and obliging most of the time while enduring this trial. The memory of their father along with their affection and esteem for their mother, helps them to be so.
The story really is about the eldest daughter, Nancy who is coming-of-age. While Mother Carey quietly endures deep sorrow Nancy befriends her in practical and lighthearted ways. Reading a bio of author Kate Douglas Wiggins I quickly spotted a parallel of life circumstances in she and her characters.
A Token of Love
In the 19th century it wasn’t unusual to find the phrase “A Token of Love” stitched onto a sampler by girls enrolled in Quaker schools. During my reading I picked up a Quaker style sampler I had left untouched for many months. The perfect symmetry of the mysterious Quaker half-medallion motifs can be tricky. I remember how often I had to backtrack and pick out stitches gone astray. For this reason the sampler was left in a drawer – until I felt fit for it again. According to the chart, the last stitches are in the wreath, however I didn’t stop there. I sought to personalize it. I kept a lookout for some inspiring words. For days and days I waited until something pithy made its appeal.
Then the following paragraph from chapter five of Mother Carey’s Chickens provided just that. The Careys must get used to the novelty of strict economizing. With their father gone the servants are dismissed. Chores are adopted as a way of life. But they rally. How?
"The only thing to do was to remember father’s pride and justify it, to recall his care for mother and take his place so far as might be; the only thing for all, as the months went on, was to be what mother called the three b’s – brave, bright, and busy."
Could you use a winter motto? The three b’s became a winter motto of mine. I can use the reminder.
One by one the three b's were stitched in cloth.
This Quaker sampler has random splashes of color. I carried the tiniest bit of splashing over to the lettering, too.
The birds in their golden feathers are chickens, of course. I might applique the sampler onto a pajama bag of gold fabric with blue rose buds.
I’ve been blessed to know women who rally during lean times. Out of love for God and family they are brave, bright, and busy. These women are an encouragement to me.
“A hero is no braver than any other man, but he is braver for five minutes longer." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Happy Valentine’s Day
Comments are welcome.