As 2020 has been a long and difficult year, I have been thankful for a good supply of books, including a stack I haven’t read yet. One of my favorite older books is The Swan House, by Elizabeth Musser, which I read almost as soon as it came out in 2001. It helped me to read about the early 1960’s, when times were harder, yet many people worked to make positive changes in the little ways each person could, and with each little bit, good was accomplished. I enjoyed the variety of people doing their best to bring about change, in orderly and kind ways.
The characters are engaging, the nostalgically sweet teen angst and self-discovery of Mary Swan Middleton and her friends, the parent’s and grandparents’ resistance to change but ultimate pride in their youngsters are all realistic and believable. The story of the loyal housemaid Ella Mae made me laugh as I cheered her good common sense, and her sorrows brought me to tears. The character of Miss Abigail, the inner-city missionary, was caring and influential. This book tells the story of one family growing together through an unimaginably difficult time after losing their mother during the Orly plane crash that shook Atlanta in 1962. It included a few real people, but most of the characters were fictional.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the friendship between Episcopalian Mary Swan and her best friend Rachel, who is Jewish. When Rachel experiences racism, she quotes Jesus’ words in the New Testament, which they’ve studied at school–“Love one another.” Mary Swan’s black friend Carl, from Ella Mae’s church, speaks similarly of the unfairness of being prejudged and singled out for his skin color.
In 2020, I am thankful for the changes that started in the 1960’s, for people like Martin Luther King, John Lewis and Mayor Ivan Allen who helped to make them happen. I’m glad that I grew up hearing “Atlanta, the city too busy to hate,” before I knew what the slogan really meant. I’m thankful to live in a country that has always held peaceful elections, even though we don’t all agree. I’m thankful for my mom, who gracefully handled the situation of 7-year-old me wanting the black girl in my new school to become my best friend, inciting disapproval from my 80-ish grandmother; Mom told me to be respectful to my grandmother, but that I could be friends with any of the children in my class. I am thankful for family, and for friends of many religions from around the world.
I hope that 2021 will be a better year, full of good things. I pray for a peaceful change to our national government in January. Whether our country looks Red, Blue or a blended purple, I hope everyone will start to work together again. To you my readers, I wish you good health, good books, vaccines to heal Covid, and happy video conferences and outdoor gatherings (safely distanced), until we can be together again..