Alice Chapin, August 1949 in her sunken garden at Marion
Happy Mom’s Day! Happy Spring! Happy good weather at last! Looks like Mom Nature is pulling off a trifecta for this week. Let’s hope that it’s all here to stay.
This is the month we think about gardens and flowers. Many a mom will receive flowers, cut or greenhouse, this week. Lovely blooms are already popping up on porches and garden hooks. We note garden spots are being tilled in anticipation of vegetables, and flower beds are ready for flowers. Gardeners everywhere are ready to get their hands in the soil. It is time.
We are already a bit behind at our house. Whatever miserable cold-like stuff that’s going around found us a couple of weeks ago. It took our ambition and inclination to do just about anything for too many days. We think we are behind, but the truth is we’re likely right on track. Mom Nature is still a bit slow and Jack Frost can throw a flash freeze on any clear night. The next full moon is June 3. It is our experience that nothing is really safe until that event passes.
If you are a gardener who has all of your flower beds and garden plot readied and still wants more dirt under your nails, we’ve got just the project for you. Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 20, 10am-2pm. That’s the date and time for the spring freshen-up of the beds and shrubs at the M. Alice Chapin-Marion Public Library on Main Street. There is pruning, digging and raking to be done, and a big pile of new mulch will be on hand, ready to spread. So, grab your garden gloves, your favorite rake or shovel, and meet up with other book-loving gardeners. The old saying is so true, many hands make light work. We hope you can make it. Refreshments will be served.
The library’s benefactor, M. Alice Chapin 1866-1957, appears to have been quite a gardener in her time. Her property and tidy home on Pickard Street was always immaculate in old photos. By the time her home became the M. Alice Chapin Memorial Library in the 1950’s, the flower beds were mature and remained well tended. The ladies on the library board had all known Mrs. Chapin and took care, not only of her home, but her flowers.
Mrs. Chapin’s choices of tiger lilies, day lilies, lily of the valley, peonies, phlox and spirea bushes were classic Marion garden fare. And all performed beautifully, with care, for many, many years. The large, framed, color photo of Mrs. Chapin, displayed at the library, shows her surrounded by beautiful purple phlox, as tall as she. The photo was taken in the yard of her long time home and hung behind the check-out desk there for years. With a slight smile, she appeared to be giving her approval to our book choices and patronage.
I’ve wondered what Mrs. Chapin would think of the choices made for ‘her’ library through the years. Since she had no children of her own, I like to think that she was pleased to have so many young folks visiting her small kitchen at the back of the house. This was the room where children’s books were first displayed. I vividly remember ‘meeting’ Laura Ingalls Wilder in that kitchen. We were introduced by long-time librarian volunteer Martha Fordyce. Ours has been a life-long friendship and one I have greatly enjoyed. When I was in high school my grandmother introduced me to John Steinbeck and James Michener. They too sat on the shelves of the old library, just waiting for me to come along and check out another of their many books. I did.
I like to think that Mrs. Chapin would be very pleased with the Main Street version of her library. There is much more room for all of the old favorites and the works of an entire host of authors who have come along since. The kids section has come a long way since that little kitchen, trimmed in green. Kids have an entire bright section with furniture just their size, and room to enjoy them. Mrs. Chapin would likely marvel at the audio books and DVD’s. Back in the day there were no computers on her dining room table. Her desk resides at the library and several of her photographs hang in on the walls, including one of her husband, Egbert Chapin, 1862-1934, in what we’re guessing was his Spanish-American war uniform.
Mrs. Chapin would also greatly appreciate the push to save the library by creating a District Library to ensure its future. She gave all she had to leave so that those who loved books would have this resource. Her generosity has benefited us all. Please get behind the newest version of the M. Alice Chapin Memorial Library. Keep the dream going.
The Friends of the Library are hosting a Bake Sale on Saturday, May 13, in the lobby of the Village Market 9am until the treats are gone. Get there early as all of those goodies will go fast. Grab your mom some homemade cookies to go with the flowers you got her. She’ll appreciate it all more than you know.