This is the first written article in January of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Jan 1, 1905, and is one of Marion’s yearly messages.
School for Housewives – A New Year’s Preachment for the Council
Start Right at the Beginning of This Practical Rather than Sentimentally Reminiscent Conferences
When we were young and green in judgment we were not afraid of “big contracts.”
Much that passes with youth for courage, and which is condemned by elders as “foolhardiness,” is rashness born of ignorance. The skater who has never broken through thin ice, and never heard of “breathing holes,” strikes out fearlessly.
When we were young we reviewed the year behind us, and made good resolutions for that before us – all on New Year’s Day. The retrospect was a moonlighted track, where memory blended sorrow and joy into a kind of gentle pensiveness. The prospect was bright with the sunlight of hope.
Ah, well! we all know what came of the New York exercise enjoined by custom and conscience; how surely the thin ice cracked under our stride; how good resolves were drowned in the black breathing holes.
Now that the years, in flying, have dropped white down upon our heads, if their “multitude” have taught us it should, we take short views of life. We go to school to the coral builders, to the ants, the bees and the flowers of the field, with their perpetual parable of, first, the blade, then the stalk, the bud, the blossom – the seed. We form letter by letter, set stitch by stitch and draw one breath at a time.
A PRACTICAL CONFERENCE
This is our New Year’s talk, a cozy four-feet-on-a-fender conference between reader and editor on the threshold of 1905. A conference I would make practical rather than sentimentally reminiscent.
Whether or not Thomas Carlyle obeyed his own injunction to “do the duty which lieth nearest thee, which thou knowest to be a duty,” it is certain that the utterance is instinct with sound wisdom.
Turning the pages of the book, my eye falls upon another pregnant paragraph:
“Don’t object that your duties are ‘so insignificant.’ They are to be reckoned of infinite significance and alone important to you. Were it but the more perfect regulation of your apartment, the sorting away of your clothes and trinkets, the arranging of your papers – ‘Whatsoever they hand findeth to do, do it with they might,’ and all thy worth and constancy.”
After dwelling upon “duties that have a higher, wider scope” – those done to kindred and kind – our author adds a sentence I would like to engrave upon the fleshy tablets of every heart:
“That is the sure and steady disconnection and extinction of whatsoever miseries one has in this world.”
If I could, as our boys (and some of our girls) would phrase it, “put you next” to that “sure and steady disconnection and extinction,” I should deserve your everlasting gratitude and a niche in the Temple of Fame.
THE DUTIES NEAREST US
“Don’t trample on the gentians while you are hunting for the edelweiss, which, after all, may not be up there!” cried one Alpine traveler to another, who, on tiptoe at the edge of a glacier, was searching eagerly every crevice that might hold the coveted snow flower.
Beneath her feet, in the very drip of the melting mass of ice, July suns had spread a carpet of gentians as blue as the heavens – as brave as he everlasting hill they draped.
Take we, then, our “nexts” the duty nearest us – the everyday tasks we rate as humble – to be our gentians, and stoop to gather them. They grow thick, and they grow fast for each of us. Who has not his or her edelweiss to win which would be honor, and, we think, happiness? We mothers have our ambitions. Yours may be music, it may be literature, it may be travel and all the good it implies.
You have so dove-tailed your takes – the must-be-dones – that make the necessary routine of the day so wisely that you have two hours for the piano, or one hour for the book you have longed for a month to read, or you wish to attend a concert, or to visit a friend whose society would be a spiritual and mental uplift.
Just as the dear joy is within your reach the cook taps at the door with the tale of a happening – to you a catastrophe – which upsets the cherished plan. Or a visitor – always a bore, now a nuisance – “shakes all your buds from blowing.” Or John comes home with one of his nasty headaches and you cannot leave him. Or Johnny has examples to prepare for tomorrow’s session that terrify him almost to tears. Or Susie asks permission to bring a few of the girls and a boy or two in for an evening’s innocent frolic. Or the report of a charitable society must be written by you because the regular officer, whose business it is, has neglected it. Or the twins have been afield and torn their trousers so horribly that your work basket is hurried to the front, and the reading the review, the companionship for which you are athirst and a-hungered, must be postponed indefinitely.
GRAND PRACTICES IN PATIENCE
Trifles? Yes! To the masculine philosopher who has no household hindrances, and whose time is his own because he “will not submit to interruptions.” So are toothache, and a boil upon the tip of one’s nose, and gravel in one’s shoe, and the loss of one’s dinner. We women know which class of these miseries is the lighter.
Plainly, there is but one salve for disappointment in any or all of these cases, and in a hundred others of daily occurrence. That is, to force oneself to hold out a friendly hand to the hindrance, accepting it as a duty, and, since it is done for another, as a privilege. This is a “disconnection” of the chain of small “miseries.” When recognition of duty as a privilege becomes habitual, “disconnection” becomes “extinction.”
It is grand practice in patience – this brave conversion of an enemy into a friend. In the days when there were giants of oratory upon the earth I heard Wendell Phillips define Patience as “that passion of noble souls.” We rise to the sublime height of that passion step by step. Whenever, n the yea to come, we crush back the irritable retort; when we smile when we would rather frown; when we esteem another’s happiness or comfort a worthier object than our own personal ease; when we beat down pride, envy, unworthy ambitions – whatsoever means our brother to stumble – in short, by so much as the Mind of the Master in use prevails above self-love – we climb!
Shall we begin the ascent together, dearly beloved, the Great Family with whom I have walked in peace and mutual affection all these years?
God keep our feet in the upward way, granting us by this sure, if arduous, pass a happy New Year!