As someone who is from the area, I pass the girlhood home of Louisa May Alcott year round when I bring my youngest daughter to preschool off Meriam Road just beyond Orchard House. Since it is a part of my routine landscape, I found myself only taking note of it when the film crews arrive on one or two occasions throughout the year. However, I chose to shake off the familiarity bred by one too many times up and down the same road and put myself in the position of visitor this past week, so as to experience it from the inside out with my two daughters. Upon entering, I was immediately impressed at how they made the Alcott family come to life for their young visitors.
In my particular case, I chose to enlist in a wonderful program called Hand-in-Hand. It is created specifically for girls four to six and draws them into what might have been the daily life of the Alcott children. At the same time it is wonderfully informative for the parents to tour each of the rooms and understand how they functioned for the family in that time period. One interesting note, the tour guide who was a very engaging college age women told the children that the Alcott sisters worked together in the morning with Marmie to prepare the food for the day, along with all necessary chores required to keep a household going in the mid-19th century. She asked her young audience what chores they performed at home to help pitch in during the morning hours or other times…the room was embarrassingly silent; including my daughters.
It was an interesting read on how times have changed. While there is sometimes homework to be done or in our case some instrument practice, it’s not really a question of whether you’ll thrive as a family if your daughters or sons complete chores or not. But it was hard not to cringe a bit knowing the replacement is often watching a show, even on PBS, while waiting for Mom to fix up some breakfast.
The high point here was the fact that this audience of young girls were fully attentive and truly curious about the way these young women lived. The program itself was a combination of age-appropriate stories, fact finding scavenger hunts around the house, songs and questions and answers. I highly recommend it. The Orchard House is not a passive historical journey. The people behind the scenes have chosen not to fall into the trap of cliche or standard tourist fare. They have created a living and breathing adventure for young and old and I hope to go back at some point for the “Adult” tour.