As a parent and educator I am ever thinking about how I might help my children love what they ought to love and in the proper degree. I wrote a little about that some months ago. Recently an online friend wrote about books being one of the most effective tools to help our children develop this moral imagination. And though I am usually thinking about literature and the ideas it embodies, developing the moral imagination of my children, this week, as I neatened up a bookshelf in our home and came across a favorite childhood book of mine, I pondered how it had influenced my moral imagination.
"Oh I love to cook, I love to bake, I guess I'll make an acorn cake!"
I thank my mom for introducing me to good books. Miss Suzy was one of a number of books she purchased for me on subscription from the Parents' Magazine Press. And while Miss Suzy may not be classic literature it was a beloved story of my childhood, of my sibling's childhoods, and my children's childhood.
When I was young, I loved the idea of coziness and Miss Suzy's existence was, to me, the epitome of coziness. Her home was fitted simply but cozily with homemade acorn cups, a maple twig broom, and firefly lamps, and sat at the tip, tip, top of a tall oak tree.
"At night Miss Suzy climbed into her bed and looked through the topmost branches at the sky. She saw a million stars. And the wind blew gently and rocked her to sleep. It was very peaceful."
The picture of Miss Suzy, snuggled under her thick comforter, looking out her window, is etched in my memory.
Unfortunately, a band of marauding red squirrels ran Miss Suzy out of her home and she escaped to the attic of an old house. In the attic she found an old doll house, elegantly fitted with flowered carpets, china dishes, and gold chandeliers. As the house had been vacant and everything was covered in dust, Miss Suzy set about cleaning and putting everything in order.
Next, she found a box in the attic and upon opening it discovered a band of toy soldiers. Set free by Miss Suzy, they came to live in the doll house where she cared for them, cooking their meals and tucking them in at night with a story.
As time passes, Miss Suzy became increasingly homesick for her little house in the oak tree; she told the toy soldiers the story of the her home and how the red squirrels had chased her away.
"Late that night the captain woke his men and gave them their orders. There were only five of them, but they were very brave, and their hearts were full of love..."
The toy soldiers chased the red squirrels from Miss Suzy's home so she moved back in and made the soldiers promise to come for dinner once every week. Miss Suzy then went to work setting her little home in order;
"she had to work very hard to make her old home as neat and cozy as it had been before, but she didn't mind."
I chuckled to myself as I reflected on this story, which was formative in my life, as today it would definitely not be considered politically correct: a female protagonist finds contentment in cooking, baking, and caring for her home. She then devotes herself to caring for a band of male toy soldiers, who in turn fight for her when she needs them. Interestingly, I noticed on Miss Suzy's Amazon page that this book has received 133 reviews--132 readers rated it with five stars and one rated it with four. Maybe there is something to this homemaking business? I'm buying a copy of this book for each of my children to take with them into their future homes.