Surely I cannot be the only person who has noticed the pair of stone plaques outside one of the heavy wrought iron gates. The inscription on the left side reads: “The Gladys Potter Garden. Dec 4, 1883 – Nov 16, 1891.” Its companion plaque on the right is much more weathered and thus harder to read. But if one squints a bit, one can make out the explanation: “This garden was given by a mother in loving memory of her little girl, who loved this spot and who loved to walk here with her father when it was part of an attractive ravine. MCMXX” .Hanna and I first heard this piece when Laura read an early version of it as her presidential address before the New England Historical Association several years ago. We are so happy to see it find a home!
I am a historian. I am a mother. The inscription knocks the breath out of me. Among so many boys and girls who have played here, there was Gladys Potter, and she died at my own son’s age. I know how frequently parents have suffered the deaths of their children throughout history. I can prepare myself for these awful object lessons in a cemetery (where I’ve also been known to walk and explore the past). But I do not expect this sharp announcement of grief, this intimate and generous act of mourning, to arrest me at the gates of my children’s playground.
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