"I USED to know a home, very plain, very simply furnished, very strenuous in its endeavors, and lofty in its ideals, which for abounding cheerfulness surpassed the common abodes of men and women. Looking back I know that there was a struggle with poverty, that the wolf sometimes growled at the door, and that the one shadow on the lives of the heads of the house was that they had so little to give away. But the fund of anecdote there, the jests that were as much the family property as the silver spoons and the old clock in the hall, the friends who came and went, the hospitality that was spontaneous, and the fun that was never wanting, made that home perennially sweet for its inmates, and makes it perennially fragrant in memory.
The Little Things.
The habit of being pleased with little things is worth cultivating by those who would be cheerful. If we wait for the greater gifts and scorn the smaller ones we shall often go through life with empty hands. A child’s kiss, a child’s good report on Friday afternoon, a bit of fire on the hearth on a chilly night, a letter from an old friend, a pleasure jaunt to park or seaside costing for the whole family less than a dollar, a new book, a picture bought with small daily savings—these are the items that add to the balance on the credit side of the home felicity. And when one has for years made it a rule to be glad and pleased when little delights have brightened the hours, one will realize that the capacity for a surprise or pleasure is greatly enlarged. The woman who found it a treat to go to Coney Island with the children for a picnic will be very far from blase if she ever goes to Mentone or Capri, or crosses the Continent and sits among the roses in a garden of enchantment at Santa Monica. Still beyond this, they who cultivate the talent for finding enjoyment in the daily little things, will be the stronger for battling with the sterner realities, and for bearing the greater sorrows, if ever they come.
The Joy of Light.
Among tangible aids to cheerfulness in the household, and these should not be overlooked, light and warmth take precedence. Exercise frugality in other directions, but have a well-lighted living room, and, if practicable, a fire that one may poke. The gloomy, vault-like chill of a half-warmed, obscurely lighted home has driven many a boy and man to some hostelry where lamps and fire beckoned. No place in a home should be too ornamental and too costly in its equipment for the use of the family. A stately drawing-room may be the privilege of a palace, where there are suites of other pleasant apartments, but people of ordinary means should live all over their houses, and have no shut-up room, into which the boys and girls may not intrude. Books and periodicals add immensely to the cheer of a home, and to the broadening and brightening of growing youth. That house is always cheerful which is open to’ the voices of the period, which keeps a tally of new inventions and discoveries, and which is, to use a graphic phrase, up to date. The up-to-date house must own, not merely borrow from a library, plenty of books. Receptive to new ideas, cheerfulness comes to us as a matter of course. It is to the lonely, narrow, hopeless home that melancholy creeps a menace and a blight.
They who most prize home cheerfulness will carefully avoid getting into a rut. The bondage of routine fetters those who never have variety, who, year in and year out, walk in the same track and drop seeds into the same furrow. If the mother, the pivot of the domestic machinery, shows symptoms of wearing out, if she is not responsive as formerly, if she sits by herself, and the tears start at some fancied slight, the combined family should rally to her rescue. Twenty miles from home, or two hundred, the sovereign virtues of a change may restore her spirits and make her once more cheerful and brave. One un-cheerful person in the house, one who is the slave of the low mood, will, without evil intention, upset the equanimity of the whole circle. Low spirits are malarious. Very subtly, very wofully, they undermine the family health. The contagion of despair is more noxious than the germ of yellow fever, and more to be dreaded. Make a strong fight, and be sure it will not be a losing one, with prayer and pains, against the ill dominion of the blues; in other words, against the malignity of the lower self. If the individual does this, the family will feel the tonic of a brave endeavor, and will help mightily and unitedly to drive the demoniac possession away.
Plenty of Song.
One more tangible aid to good cheer at home is- music. Banjo, mandolin, piano, plenty of song, and the household will move without friction, in mutual respect, and a common devotion to the common weal. A music-loving family is almost sure to have good times at home. While a home ought to reach out from itself to other homes, and to keep an open door for friends and guests, it should never be dependent for its cheer upon any influence from without. For its happy times, its daily enjoyments, and its pleasures that are processional with the year, it should be sufficient to itself. If cheerfulness in the home is to be a factor in the home’s development, it must grow from the center, not be fastened on the circumference. The song must be in the soul before it is on the lip. Good times at home, among the home folk, a simple, uncostly style of living that involves no undue anxiety, a house not too fine for daily use, and plenty of sunshine and love, will fulfill the republican ideal, and upbuild our nation."
By Margaret E. Sangster, 1919.