A LIGHT-HEARTED MOMENT WITH LARRY: DEATH OF AN ICON

THE DEATH OF AN ICON

By L. Schwirian

Prompt: “Chopped” Writing – as in the Food Channel show of the same name; writers use a set of unusual ingredients to create a piece of writing.

In this case, the ingredients were:

3 Objects: a bugle, a pair of scissors, a dying plant                                                2 People: a police officer and a fairly deaf patron                                                1 Place: the library

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Alice Whitehead was a librarian for over 50 years. She started when still in high school, then went to college to earn a degree in Library Science, and was anointed chief librarian after graduation. Married to her high school sweetheart Rolf, a police officer, she raised three sons…all of whom spent time with her in the library after school. By the time they graduated, each had read practically every book the library had to offer.

She loved her books and her work, and she always looked forward to meeting and helping new families in the community. Over the years, she helped to teach many young lads and lassies how to do research and find references. Teaching youngsters how to read between the lines was one of her specialties. Alice was one of the most widely read and respected people in the county when it came to understanding and promoting Shakespeare and other classic literature.

Now in her mid-70s, Alice knew that her time at the library was nearing an end, and she wanted to show her appreciation to the community by planning a celebration. As a very humble person, she didn’t want to make the party about herself or her retirement. There was one living thing in the library that was even older than Alice and clearly was now slowly dying.  Mama Jade, a potted plant, deserved to be celebrated. This icon of resilience had occupied the same spot in the reading room since before anyone could remember. Alice had watered and diligently nurtured Mama Jade since she was a teenager, and both grew up and aged together gracefully.

Over the decades, hundreds of clippings had been entrusted to families throughout the county, and Alice, being a librarian, kept copious records of every family or individual recipient. She contacted those who had received original clippings and asked these people to contact others who had received second, third, or fourth generation clippings to become part of the celebration.

On the appointed day, close to two hundred people, including the chief of police, showed up to celebrate both Mama Jade and Alice. There was food and drink for everyone, but the highlight of the celebration was Alice, with her sparkly silver scissors, standing next to Mama Jade. It was Alice’s intent to help give Mama Jade a glorious ending by systematically clipping her remaining appendages and ceremoniously offering them to onlookers. To add to the solemnity of the final act, Alice’s grandson, a twelve-year-old Boy Scout, raised his bugle and began playing Taps. Nearly everyone in the audience was deeply moved, and 98-year-old Matilda Higgins, a near deaf library patron, was in tears even though she could hardly hear the bugle.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer and co-chair of the Writers Guild Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff. 

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