“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It's so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We've got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.
Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March each had a dollar for Christmas presents. Instead of buying things for themselves, they agreed to make a Christmas basket filled with goodies for their Marmee. Jo bought a new pair of slippers, Beth embroidered ‘Mother’ on a pile of handkerchiefs and Meg purchased ‘a nice pair of gloves’. Amy was stuck. She decided that Marmee could use a bottle of elegant cologne.
Everyone agrees that making a Christmas basket for Marmee was lovely. Cologne was something that Marmee liked, and the basket was for her. But should Amy have bought something else?
Amy should have bought cologne for Marmee for three reasons. One, Amy needed to buy the cologne; two, Amy liked to belong; and three, Amy cared about Marmee.
The first reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she needed to buy the cologne. She had wanted to buy the slippers, but could not. As ‘the man of the house’, Jo beat her to them. This cologne was as elegant as Annie Moffat and also inexpensive.
The second reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she liked to belong. It was Christmas. People bought presents for loved ones. All her friends bought cologne for their mothers, and her sisters were buying presents for Marmee. Amy would have felt terrible if she had spent the dollar on herself—and not Marmee.
The third reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she cared about Marmee. Marmee liked cologne. Amy wanted Marmee’s new handkerchiefs to smell nice. All the other mothers wore cologne, and Amy wanted Marmee to be fashionable.
At first, I thought that Amy should not have bought the cologne for Marmee. I thought that Marmee was too practical, and that the cologne would just sit on her bureau. But I was underestimating Marmee; she would love any present—especially if it was from one of her beloved daughters.
As an artist, I thought that Amy should have bought her coveted art pencils. Then she could draw something for Marmee. But Amy was rather selfish. Even she admitted that. That Christmas, she wanted to be unselfish and self-sacrificing. Marmee liked cologne, so Amy bought it.
Amy should have bought the cologne for Marmee. Amy needed to buy the cologne, Amy liked to belong, and Amy cared about Marmee.
This seems a very small matter. It is just a decision to buy cologne for a mother. But Louisa May Alcott wanted the young, spoiled Amy to grow up a bit that Christmas. Amy could have been selfish with her money, but instead, she chose to be generous. At first, she bought a cheap, tiny bottle of cologne that did not take up the entire dollar.
But the next morning, without telling anyone, Amy slipped out of the house and returned the first bottle of cologne. When she came back to the house, she had a beautiful, large bottle of more expensive perfume that used up the entire dollar.