Isabella Alden’s son Raymond was fifteen years old when he wrote this sweet poem. It was published in The Pansy magazine in 1888.
(Written in answer to a child who asked what lovewas.)
Love is—well, what can anyone say? Love is—Why, darling, think all day Of all the words that we can say; And think, and think, and tell me What love is. Ah! I knew you could not.
Well, love is Jesus; and He is love. Love is a message, so sweet, from above. God is love, so the good Book says, And true love is great and high, always.
What is the best definition given? Love is a message, a breath from Heaven. God’s message to lost ones—our Light, our Life. Love makes all peace where once was strife. Oh! Let me show you what love can do.
For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son to save— Whom do you think? Why, sinners, whom Justice for justice’s sake would doom!
But then, you look very wise, and say, Why, God is love, you know, anyway! Aye, my darling, that is true. Now let me ask you—What cannot love do?
Isabella Macdonald Alden was born the youngest child in a loving, and very tight-knit family.
She and her sisters were especially close, even though there was a vast difference in their ages.
For example, Isabella celebrated her first birthday the same year her eldest sister, Elizabeth, married and moved into a home of her own. But since Elizabeth’s new house was only a few steps from the Macdonald’s front door, Isabella and Elizabeth shared a close relationship.
The same was true of Mary, who was 14 years older than Isabella. When Mary wed and set up housekeeping, her home was built on property that abutted the Macdonald’s back garden. As a result, Isabella spent a lot of time with Mary and they, too, had a special bond.
It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella married and began keeping a house of her own, she made certain the door was always open to family members. She wanted her sisters to feel the same welcoming spirit in her house as she had always felt in theirs.
When her son Raymond was young, Isabella and her husband Ross began taking him to Florida, hoping the southern climate would benefit Raymond’s health. To their relief, Raymond’s health did improve, so the Aldens decided to make Florida their winter home.
They bought a plot of land in the new town of Winter Park, and began building a house that would be big enough to accommodate plenty of family members.
They built on an oversized lot on the corner of Lyman and Interlachen avenues, right across the street from All Saints Episcopal Church.
The house was completed in 1888. Ross dubbed it “Pansy Cottage,” a name that stuck and was soon known all over town. This photo shows the size of the “cottage”:
The inviting home was three stories tall, with large yards in front and back, and a wrap-around porch that invited family, friends and neighbors to sit down and enjoy a cozy chat. It was the perfect place for the family to gather, far away from the cold New York winters.
In this photo you can see family members on the front steps and porch, in the yard, and even peeking out of the top-most windows. They look like they’re having fun!
Isabella and her family members spent many happy winters at the Pansy Cottage; and the Florida climate did improve Raymond’s health.
In 1906 Ross and Isabella began their preparations for retirement. They sold Pansy Cottage and moved to their new house in Palo Alto, California where, once again, everyone was welcome in Isabella’s new home.
In fact, she and Ross shared the California house with their son Raymond, and his wife and children, as well as Isabella’s sisters Julia and Mary.
After Ross and Isabella sold Pansy Cottage, it was passed along to different owners. Eventually, it was turned into a rooming house; and in 1955 Pansy Cottage was demolished. But thanks to photos like these, we can still peek into Isabella’s world and imagine a bit of her life with those she loved in turn-of-the-century Florida.
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