Suzanne Beecher
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2022 First Place Winner: Deanna White

Dear Reader,

She shuffled into the library every Saturday morning and bee-lined straight to the newspaper section. Well into her nineties, her fragile frame was draped by a green housecoat that stay-at-home moms wore zippered up over their day-clothes once upon a time. The housecoat was faded, worn and weary--on the verge of becoming grey--but in another lifetime I imagined the color was a festive Christmas green.

Mrs. Green Housecoat was followed in every Saturday by Mr. Kind-Heart, her middle-aged neighbor who lived across the street from her and told me with a shy smile as he peered over his glasses, "her husband passed away and she doesn't drive anymore." While Mrs. Green Housecoat devoured the newspaper, Mr. Kind-Heart requested DVD's for her to watch at home, "She loves the old musicals," he told me the first week I met them, "and the old black and white movies."

Over the course of a year, I looked forward to Saturday morning exchanges with this eccentric couple. We talked about her favorite musicals, Mrs. Green Housecoat loved, "My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, and Singing in the Rain." I shared with her my favorite black and white classics, "Pride of the Yankees" with Gary Cooper and "Gas Light" starring Ingrid Bergman. Their weekly visits were sunshine on a rainy day.

Mrs. Green Housecoat's petite face was framed with a silver, wavy bob worn like the starlets of the silent-movie era. When she smiled, her whole face wrinkled up into a thousand tiny crevices, such as a vintage map etched with highways, roads, and mountains, and revealed missing teeth from her radiant smile. One day, as we scoured the stacks for movies, I pulled out Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii", holding it out to her like a gift. She glanced at the title and casually stated, "I knew Elvis," and I chuckled aloud as if she told a funny joke. Then she continued, "When I was a young girl, I worked for MGM Studios," her eyes twinkled with delight and her cheeks flushed a glowing pink of a first crush. She paused for a moment as if she were searching through the library in her mind that held volumes of precious memories forged over a lifetime. Suddenly, she leaned into me as if we were childhood friends exchanging conspiratorial secrets on the playground, "One day he walked in and looked straight at me and said, 'Hey, Good Looking!'"

In that moment, Mrs. Green Housecoat was transformed before my eyes. I no longer saw the shriveled woman with faded clothes and a worn-out body, instead I saw a young girl in the prime of her life with golden curls, pink cheeks and red lipstick. I saw a young, strong woman with smooth skin and a curvy frame that could fill out a pencil skirt and a snug-fitting sweater like Ann Margaret in "Bye-Bye Birdie". I also became fully aware of the fragility of life--that one person holds thousands of precious memories, countless adventures, and a million beautiful stories that weave a history of their past.

After the initial COVID quarantine passed and we could return to the library, I expectantly waited for Mrs. Green Housecoat and Mr. Kind-Heart to walk through the door on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, I never saw either of them pass through the library doors again. I now work for another library, but I often remember the flash of her smile and the twinkle in her eyes as she recounted the fabulous stories of her youth and I wonder at the goodness of Mr. Kind-Heart who with his selfless act of generosity, provided Mrs. Green Housecoat with as great a gift as Elvis Presley did all those years ago.

-- Deanna White