A Tale Of The Old Ways And One Of The New Wrinkles

THE WAY IT IS

Despite Advances,some Still Retreat Behind Artificial Barriers

April 14, 1991|By Jeff Griffith

Two stories.

THE DEDICATION

He stood near the back of the crowd, having arrived late. The brilliant weather -- bright, warm -- seemed to him an omen, and not a bad one.

"These are good people," he mused. "They will use this facility to do good work in our community."

Elected officials lined the platform, smiling the fixed grins of the terminally amused. A clergyman blessed the crowd, the building, the fraternal group whose special day it was and the saint whose feast it was. Members of the group,in their unique regalia, formed a color guard. The master of ceremonies gave well-deserved thank-you's all around. The newly renovated building was open for tours. A reception, featuring the jazz ensemble from the local high school, swung into action.

He made his way gingerly to the platform, greeting acquaintances and making small talk. The facility invited a look. He slipped inside.

Two members, old buddies of his, offered a private tour. That sounded good to him. The renovation had been done skillfully, professionally. Each level had its assigned fund-raising duties: dinners here, dances there, other activities elsewhere.

"This will work," he told his friends. "The place looks great. You guys are on a roll."

To himself he thought again of the good work these men would do with this new base of operations.

"When are you going to join?" asked one of the group's officers, another longtime friend. "We've got plenty of membership applications right here."

"You know the answer to that. You've heard it enough," he joked. "I'll join when my daughters can join."

"They can join the ladies' auxiliary -- " the other began.

"No. That's not what I mean -- you know that. You don't understand. When my daughters can be full-fledged members, then I'll join with pleasure."

He didn't linger. After sharing more congratulations with the members, he departed.

"These men will do good work in our community," he repeated inwardly. "But they just don't understand."

THE INVESTITURE

He mingled and chatted and wondered what to do with his umbrella. Nowhe knew that the light mist falling outside hadn't been reason enough to lug the thing along after all.

His colleagues talked shop, asalways. Snatches of legalese assaulted the innocent ears of all manner of bystander.

"No, a tort is not a German pastry," he told himself yet again. His mind tended toward bad puns.

When the ceremony was about to commence, he and his colleagues ascended the narrow stairs to the courtroom. In the anteroom, the presiding judges finished robing.

Once seated inside the courtroom, he waited. The mood was festive, despite the solemnity of the occasion.

"All rise," said the clerk. The presiding judges entered gravely, nodding to the respectfully standing crowd.

Now the time had come to administer the oathof office to the county District Court's newest judge.

Her sponsors offered her to the court with varying measures of affection, respect and irreverence. As a punster and a devotee of low humor, he grinned and laughed with the rest of the assemblage.

Her Honor took theoath with pride and dignity. Smiling broadly, she mounted the podiumand took her place among her judicial peers. She expressed the sincere thanks of a daughter, wife, parent and friend who grasps the indispensable role of family and friends in the success of any of us.

And she explained that she had decided on the course of her life when,much earlier, she'd read a novel in which a small-town lawyer "had done the right thing when it would have been easier to do the wrong thing."

That moved him, despite his acknowledged preference for low humor.

When he and his colleagues filed out, he pondered the future of his daughters. Somehow he had managed not to forget his umbrella. The mist had lifted.

"The more things change," he said aloud, "the more they stay the same."

And that's the way it is.

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