At a small family gathering near Thanksgiving we went around the dinner table saying what we’re thankful for. I was charmed by my husband’s unexpected contribution:
“I’m thankful for the Elsa dress,” he said.
I laughed, but the idea stuck with me.
For those uninitiated into the phenomenon of Frozen, Elsa is the blue-gowned heroine of the animated Disney film set in a mythical Scandinavian landscape. After seeing the movie in bits and pieces over time, our granddaughter became utterly enraptured by Elsa, by her showstopper theme-song, “Let it Go” (belted out by the amazing Idina Menzel), and most predominantly, by the Elsa dress costume that her parents got her for Halloween.
For a while, Fiona’s mom and dad tried the out-of-sight out-of-mind method of weaning their daughter off the dress. No way. She was not going to let it go. Who knew that a not-quite two-year-old could sustain that kind of focus over days?
On a Grammie visit in early November, I tiptoed into Fiona’s room at the end of naptime. Bleary-eyed, red-cheeked, raising her head from the stuffed pig that had been her pillow, her first words came as a query:
“Elsa dress?” she asked hopefully.
“The Elsa dress is in the laundry.” (I’d been primed with this response)
“Mommy clean it?”
“Maybe later, Honey.”
“Elsa dress hiding.”
“Yes, maybe it’s hiding again.”
At an outdoor celebration of Fiona’s birthday in mid-November, she wore the Elsa dress over her clothes. She wore it to daycare, the store, anywhere she could. By Thanksgiving it seems her parents had given up resisting. She’d worn it every day for a week and clutched it to her when it was off, like a magic totem. She regularly requests Elsa’s famous song while she’s wearing the dress, then runs in grand circles, waving her wand, tiara sparkling, singing “Wet it go, wet it go…hold it back any-mo…”
“It’s like she magically transforms into a princess when she puts it on,” said Fiona’s mom, who can’t help smiling every time.
Jonathan didn’t explain his gratitude for the Elsa dress, except to say that it makes him happy. I’ll venture some further ideas about where that happiness comes from.
Try to imagine that kind of total immersion in joy. The fertile mind of a tiny new person so enchanted floods the heart with delight. Magic is happening, before your eyes, the kind we can barely remember through the fog of adult eyes. It is why I revere childhood. The ability of young developing minds to explore beyond the boundaries of rational barriers reminds us of possibility, hopefulness, unrestrained joy in being.
Yes, yes, it’s also buying into a capitalist marketing scheme run by the mega-corporation of Disney. I don’t mind. For whatever reason, the piquing of Fiona’s youthful imagination summons an enchantress from her pure heart. She transforms the grown-ups in her sphere, elevates them with a spell of celebratory pixie dust. I’ll take it. Kudos to my husband for naming it – I give thanks for the Elsa dress.
After the exciting discovery that And Now Tomorrow was the FIRST EVER #1 New York Times Bestseller on the very first NYT bestseller list in 1942, I decided it was time to re-read Rachel Field's last novel. It had been years since I read it cover to cover. I'm happy to report that the third time through was even better than the first two, and it's only 99 cents on Kindle right now - so seize the opportunity! Admittedly, I'm biased, but that's only partially responsible for my enthusiasm.
Yes, there are parallels between the book and Rachel's life that I did not remember. The first, intense love affair in the protagonist's life spans the exact years of Rachel's passion for Lyle Saxon - 1928 to the early 1930s. Protagonist Emily Blair's experience of love's power to consume and humble is echoed, sometimes word for word, in Rachel's real life letters to Lyle. The day trip to a historic house that Emily and her beloved Harry undertake in the book duplicates Rachel and Lyle's visit to the old General Cowles house in Farmington Connecticut. The first encounter, flooded with the flush of love, is later recalled in an ache of longing to recover a love diminished. There are many more such scenes, shifts, and revelations that track with Rachel's love, heartbreak, and return to a more peaceful, if slightly jaded self.
And Now Tomorrow is further complicated by sibling rivalry and the tragedy of meningitis-induced deafness, but the book is much more than a beautifully written, complex tale of romantic entanglements. Beyond that, there is a fascinating and humanizing exploration of the trials of the early 1930s labor movement, the clash between traditional corporations and unionizers. These elements of historic fiction give it even greater weight.
And Now Tomorrow solidifies Rachel Field's prowess as a novelist and emphasizes the tragedy of her loss. How many more extraordinary works would have come from her hand if she hadn't died so suddenly and so young? We'll never know, and we are the poorer for it.
Robin Clifford Wood is an award-winning author, poet, and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her children, grandchildren, and granddogs.