Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bronson Alcott and Fatherhood

As a father of 2 girls, it strikes me that it is both the best of times and just the beginning for women in our world. I both revel in the opportunities they have that their ancestors did not while fearing for them at the same time. Since I don't have boys, I don't know if I'd feel differently with sons.

Last weekend, we spent last a few days in Concord, MA, mostly touring old battlefields, bridges and homes. What surprised me however, was learning more about the real story behind "Little Women" and Louisa May Alcott. Most interestingly for me was learning about her pops, Bronson Alcott. According to the stories, Bronson was quite a character. My favorite story was that he'd hang out near Orchard House (photos below) in the road with a bag of apples. As people would pass by, he's bend their ear to talk politics, education or whatever else was on his mind.

Bronson was a dreamer and a philosopher, and he clearly impacted his daughters in significant ways (learn more here...wow), as all dads do. On the various tours, we learned that the Alcott's were vegans (who knew - but I may be mis-remembering that), and even upgraded their houses with primitive versions of modern plumbing. When Bronson moved into Hillside, the dude literally cut the barn into 2 pieces and reattached them the main house. Bronson was buddies with Emerson and Hawthorne who all lived locally. When we visited Wayside/Hillside Inn (2nd photo below), we learned that Hawthorne (he lived there and actually changed the name of the house) would literally climb the hill behind his house to avoid getting stuck in a long conversation with Bronson. Too funny.

Meanwhile, Bronson's daughters most certainly must have seen him as quite a piece of work. From what I've read, he was not an easy guy to live with or deal with - his views on morality and truth were not typical for the time period. Nor were his views on education - all of which he clearly imparted on his daughters.

My own view of Bronson is much more idealistic... I felt a spiritual connection to the man while we toured his house and learned of his challenges, ideas and his family. For me, it was a reminder that the influence I have on my daughters cannot be simplified, dumbed-down or taken lightly. It was a good reminder of how the past influences the present and gives us opportunities to shape the future. 

Orchard House... yes... that's where Louisa May Alcott lived

Wayside/Hillside Inn. Features a terribly designed tower in the back of the house that Hawthorne hated

This dude was a trip... and a great tour guide. He is a Hawthorne geek... in a good way!



No comments: