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Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 03:37 pm

Vachel’s cup

Vachel Lindsay spoke at my mother’s graduation from Springfield High in 1931. I still have the program. Mom adored him. In her eyes he was young, reckless, exotic and incredibly talented. She would carry that love and respect for him all the days of her life.

I will always remember the day she went to a simple estate sale and hit her personal literary jackpot. In a karmic role of the dice, Mom ended up amid stacks of books and the personal ephemera of Miss Elizabeth Graham. Not only was Miss Graham a beloved teacher of hers, she was, more importantly, an FOV (Friend of Vachel).

Miss Graham was a founding member of The Vachel Lindsay Association and a lioness when it came to perpetuating and protecting Lindsay’s memory. She, with her colleague and housemate Susan Wilcox, mentored his budding talent. And, according to Mom, cooked many meals for him.

So there in Miss Graham’s house my mother came upon a set of teacups singing a siren song only she could hear. Behind the ottoman, sitting on a lonely shelf, was a set of dainty, white china cups with sprigs of pink flowers on them. These were not just a perfect memento of Miss Graham, but a kind of holy grail ringing with Vachel’s gospel of beauty.

Ever the child of the Great Depression, Mom limited herself to two cups. When it came time to pay, she waxed poetic about Miss Graham and Vachel. Words fell from her mouth. It was the kind, patient person behind the moneybox who mentioned that Vachel probably drank from one of these very cups! It certainly was a possibility when you consider the connection. My mother’s heart beat in time to “The Congo.” Dizzy, giddy she was overcome with her purchase. The next time I saw her, she had the cups ensconced behind the glass doors of my grandmother’s dining room hutch, where all things sacred and too good to be used were kept.

Eventually, the cups made their way to me. One of them resides in the very same grandmother’s hutch. I sacrificed one to a friend, whose love of Vachel was as great as my mother’s.

Every once in awhile, though, when the moon is full and the better angels of my nature have taken a hike, I raise a toast to the author of “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven.” Yes, I raise a dainty, white china cup with sprigs of pink flowers, filled with chamomile tea, a mother’s love and a daughter’s reverence. “I am washed in the blood of the lamb.”

Marita Brake of Bloomington is a musician/writer originally from Springfield. She is working on a book of humorous vignettes.

Also from Marita Brake

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