Young writer gets a lesson on grace
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Mildred Harrison was the picture of a Southern lady.
Back in the early 1990s when I first met her, Mrs. Harrison was in her 80s and had retired as a librarian. She spent much of her time in her stately home, complete with its red brick, white columns and long driveway.
She had carefully styled white hair and an air of grace that was both welcoming and imposing. When you met Mrs. Harrison, you knew you had to sit up straight and act right.
I had come to Mrs. Harrison's home to interview her about the library system in the county where we both lived. She was the first librarian in the county and had driven the Bookmobile for years.
Mrs. Harrison was one of the lucky people who didn't have to work – her husband, Karl, was a politician and later, owned a bank. She could have lived a life of leisure. Instead, she committed herself to making sure everyone had access to books.
She told me all about setting up the first library in the county and her adventures driving the Bookmobile. She was sitting in a brown leather chair, telling stories about the WPA and working through the Great Depression when I heard a noise in the kitchen, something I attributed to the maid. A few minutes later, Karl poked his head out to add something to Mrs. Harrison's story. It seems the bank president, wearing a dark gray suit, was washing his own lunch plate.
Mrs. Harrison just kept talking and telling her stories. When the article appeared in the paper, she sent me white roses.
I felt like I had received flowers from the queen.
Sometime later, back when this column was new, I wrote an article about my dislike for Martha Stewart. It was tongue and cheek and I didn't expect to get the avalanche of letters I received. It seems I had offended lots of Martha Stewart fans and every day, there were more letters telling me I was off base.
One day, I had a letter on my desk that stood out from the rest.
I recognized the elegant handwriting on the pure white envelope.
It was a note from Mrs. Harrison.
Inside the envelope was a copy of my column with the note "I don't like her either. Mildred Harrison."
That note meant as much as the flowers.
Several years later, Karl Harrison died. Mrs. Harrison followed him less than two weeks later.
They died as they had lived – together.
I think of Mrs. Harrison sometimes, and hope that one day I will have the same dignity and grace that she possessed. And a husband that would do the dishes would be nice, too.