February 4th, 2005


Serendipity, and dead children from 1901

So last night I went to the library. There's a book I was wanting to read (Allen Drury's ADVISE AND CONSENT, if you must know) but hadn't been able to find locally, and I do like to flip through before I buy. Anyway, they had a copy downtown, so it's there I went.

I found a parking spot in front of a church nearby. But there were folks hanging around outside, and as I parked a guy loomed by my window. I figured he'd ask me to move. Nope. He was begging me to come inside. It seems there was an art festival going, with lots of businesses and places around downtown cooperating. The idea was that folks would walk from one thing to the next, buying food and giving donations, seeing artists, all of that.

Of course, it rained. Whoops. So they were desperate for warm bodies. I went in. Got free coffee, and refreshments. The art was Christian-themed, and well done; I declined their offer to come to church one Sunday on grounds of being Jewish, but I did pick up some postcards of the art for some devout Christian friends. And I did admire the church itself, which is a century old and gorgeous.

The most interesting part of the evening: three of the church's stained glass windows in a row -- the three towards the pulpit, on the left -- were given in memory of dead children. A 14-year-old girl who died of scarlet fever, an 8-year-old girl whose cause of death was not listed on the explanatory note, and a 10-year-old boy who died in a ghastly accident when his horse threw him into the path of an oncoming train.

All three children died in 1901.

We forget how often children used to die. It must have been excruciating for their parents, and for the congregation. The 14-year-old and the 10-year-old died a day apart. I don't remember when the 8-year-old died.

I did wonder how the decision was made to honor the children in glass -- were the parents all well-off, so they could afford it? Or did any of them have to scrimp, or sell something so they could put up the glass in memory of their child? Did one set of bereft parents start it independently, and the others follow? Did they decide to do it together? Among those three couples, was there one in which one parent wanted it and the other didn't, but acquiesced? Did anybody put money into the stained glass they couldn't afford, because they didn't want to be the odd parents out?

I wonder things like that, sometimes. It was an odd thing to see. Dead children remembered, three in a row.

Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis has died.

He was an old Commie, but damn did he have class. He also tended to be graceful with his personal activism, especially in later years, in a way that people aren't much any more. I recall reading about one protest (I can't recall what was being protested) at which Davis and his wife Ruby Dee were arrested. It was a polite protest: the protestors wanted to be arrested for the attention it would draw, the cops were willing to oblige them, and everybody was pretty cheerful about the whole thing. One detail in the story, about how Davis and Dee handled arrest, struck me as particularly sweet: they requested of the officers, if it were possible, to put them in the same transport van and shuffle them through booking together. And the cops did.

And he aligned himself with a totalitarian ideology that killed a hundred million people.

I'll miss him, even so.