on thomas newman (and growing wings)

I already know this story.

Four girls, the Civil War, a father wounded, a mother selfless and ingenious with sewing and making joy. Winter, almost always waiting for the spring. Spring was when thing blossomed, love tinged with jealousy, sisters growing up and into different parts of themselves. The men who enter, so different from each other, and the pairs and the children and Orchard House…

I thought I knew this story. And then I listened to it.

I listened to the soundtrack, that is. I listened to longing trumpets and violins that promised spring and change. I listened to how the music swelled to encompass disappointment, how Beth’s music was always softest, most gentle, most patient. I listened to Amy going abroad, lonely for home and yet fiercely independent. I listened to the story told through music, through the dynamics, the journey across major and minor keys.

I heard all the things I never heard before: how music can fill in the blanks of words. How there is a whole range of things that I never knew about the story that the music can tell me. I didn’t realize how hard it must have been for Jo to want to travel and not know how, how she must have felt turning Laurie down – caught in a life she wished she wanted, but doesn’t, caught by love but not in love. I didn’t realize that Amy was so wildly insecure and wanted her story to sound different, but that when she told it, it was always about her sisters. In the end, it was a story about her family, not her alone. I didn’t realize how much they loved each other, those little women.

And I know, I know – it’s just a story, they aren’t real people. I know that, but you see, to me they have been some of the most important people I could not know: they have been part of the story of me, of my own longing and curiosity and desire. Me, with my restless fitful Jo heart and my Amy longing to be different and my Meg softness and my Beth trust. I have known them and loved them for the story they tell me about the world and my self in it.

Thomas Newman reminds me about the beauty of stories: that they contain multitudes. That my imagining of Little Women and yours, and his, and everyone who reads the story, shimmers a bit differently. That in growing wings, we have to dig into the story for ourselves, imagine it, let it talk to us. To grow wings, I have to spend time with my Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth selves. I have to listen to his music, and hear new things in it. New things about those sisters, which are, of course, new things about me.

Do you have stories like that, too? Ones that teach you something about yourself? Ones that, when you hear them again, echo back a piece of you?



2 thoughts on “on thomas newman (and growing wings)

  1. Have you read ‘Eight Cousins’ and ‘Rose in Bloom’? The latter has been one of my favourite Alcott books for years.

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