A Foreword of New Year

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905, and is about ringing in the new year with a clean house and a clean score!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

A Foreword of New Year

The Real Resolution

IF EVERY reader of this page were called upon for a candid expression of opinion as to the observance of New Years Day those who have never given the latter much thought would be surprised to learn how many are disposed to regard the anniversary as a bore, and the festivities connected with it as a mistake.

Christmas frolics have left us jaded, and blunted our appetites for pleasure. Christmas giving has depleted our purses. We have no money left for Near Year presents, and if we had, the impression is so general that these are the “Arriere pensee” of conscience stricken donors, recalled by the receipt of Christmas gifts to the fact that sundry of their dear 500 friends were overlooked by themselves at Yuletide – that there is scanty grace in giving.

Memory and Tears.

As to the patent and pious resolutions enjoined as a conventional ordinance by ancient and goody-goody appointment the most serious-minded of us dismissed the habit of formulating them when age and experience had showed us the emptiness and inefficiency of spasmodic righteousness.

The dawning year, as a true poet of the last century sang –

“Is a time for memory and for tears.”

Each heart knows for itself the bitterness and the sweetness of memories that crowd upon it at this season, and to each his own griefs are scared. I have no sermon today for my dearly-beloved and loyal constituency – only a word of cordial good cheer, a hearty “god-speed,” and then a brief practical conference with my fellow-housewives.

A pleasing custom prevails in some families of having the house swept, scrubbed and garnished before the coming of the blessed Christmas Day.

As one youngling phrased it: “It would be a shame for Santa Claus to come to a dirty house!”

Another put it more aptly:

“Everything should be in order upon Our Savior’s birthday!”

I confess to the same feeling with regard to the Near Year that the thrifty housemother has as to the “shiftlessness” of carrying the week’s wash over into the next Monday, and leaving Saturday’s mending incomplete when workbasket and thimble are laid aside for the rest of Sunday. There may be a tinge of superstition in my aversion to the thought of seeing the sunshine on New Year Day through dingy windows. The impulse to clear decks for action during the last week of the old year is natural and commendable. As the warm-hearted, hot-headed heroine of “hitherto” longed, in her unhappy childhood, to “rub out and begin all over again,” we would, if possible, forget the mistakes, and rid ourselves of the drawbacks of the past year, and press forward to cleaner – therefore, better – things.

Begin with your bookshelves. Unless you are given to periodical weedings of your library you have no right conception of the quantity of “trash” you have accumulated in a twelve-month. Books that are not worth a second and even a third reading are not worth keeping. If you can get rid of them in no other way, sell them by the pound to a junk dealer or old clothes ma. If you do not mean to have your magazines bound, sort and ship them to a hospital or soldiers and sailors’ home – or, failing these, send to me (inclosing stamp always) for the address of some one of the many who hunger for reading material they have not the money to buy. Sufficient unto the year is the rubbish thereof. And whatever may be the title of a book which nobody reads, and which nobody ever will read, that book is rubbish, be it bound in calf or in paper.

Next, attack closest and drawers, and rid your house and would of what you have kept for months – maybe for years – because they were not fit to give to anybody, were of no earthly use to yourself, and yet were adjudged by some abstruse law of economics to be too good to throw away. Were your thrifty soul to depart from the workaday world tomorrow, the entire collection of cracked and broken china, out-of-date collars and cuffs, scraps of unmatchable stuffs, remnants of forgotten gowns, and mortified bonnets would be consigned to the flames by your heirs and assigns. Spare them trouble and spare your memory from disgrace by cremating the ungainly and unprofitable assortment before the bells ring out the false and ring in the true.

If, in the course of righteous work, you happen upon some forgotten article that would be of real service to the poor widow you visited at Christmas, consider that you have found a bit of her property and restore it to the owner.

I promised not to preach; but you will not take it amiss if I counsel you to carry the New Year cleaning up and clearing out work into a higher sphere than that of pantry and bookshelf? Get rid of old grudges and family feuds, of unholy enmities, mean jealousies – all you would not have cling to your soul were you sure this year would be your last on earth. “Rub out and begin again!” Don’t resolve to do it, but do it – and at once! One right deed is worth ten thousand inactive resolutions.

If there be in God’s world one fellow being to whom you would not hold out a helping hand, if he or she were in need convict yourself at the bar of conscience of sin, and repair the fault.

Begin the New Year with a clear score. Don’t wait to be dunned by remorse.

Let the midnight bells that tell the death of the past, and the birth of the future, ring in for you –

“The larger heart, the kindlier hand.”

And so, as Tiny Tim – happiest of the household, although a sickly cripple – has taught us to say:

“GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!”

MARION HARLAND.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Four Dollars a Week Enough
Housemothers in Conference With Marion Harland
Little Talks With Discontented People – No. 1
The New Shades for Lamps and Candles
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A New Year’s Preachment for the Council

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!

Marion Harland