Public And Private.

I just took that picture of flowers attached to a lamppost a few days ago but it’s not the first time I’ve seen flowers in that same spot. It’s near where my dentist is so I’ve seen flowers there before. I have a previous picture I took a year ago although, at the time, the flowers were looking a little shabby. They were plastic but still the elements had taken their toll. Why were they there, though? And this time they’d been freshened with a new more elegant cord wrapped around the lamppost. Someone’s keeping them up but who? It makes me sad to think this is probably a memorial, that someone died in that spot, or nearby, and someone who cared for that person, who loved them, is putting these flowers there as a tribute, and a way of dealing with their own grief.

And I don’t want to know who that person is. They’ve never left any information, nothing that says what happened. I sometimes see homemade roadside markers where people have been killed in accidents, and many of them have names. This one doesn’t and I respect that the person who made this memorial wishes to remain anonymous.

It reminded me of the “Poe Toaster”, a mysterious figure who, every year on January 19th, would leave roses and a bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. The figure was first noticed in 1949, one hundred years after Poe’s death, and in 1999 a note left at the grave said the original person had passed away but that the tradition would continue.

The person, or persons, who took over, however, treated the tradition as a joke, making a Superbowl prediction in 2001 (which would be wrong) and a snide remark about the French in 2004 (Poe is more respected in France than the U.S., earning praise from none other than Charles Baudelaire, who’d also lead a turbulent and tragically short life). The Poe Toaster stopped appearing in 2010, which was a good thing. It was fitting–after all 2009 was the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth–but also the torch should never have been passed. The person(s) who took over didn’t take the responsibility seriously and never should have carried on.

The tradition was revived by the Maryland Historical Society which held “auditions” in 2015, and while I think it’s nice that it’s being carried on it started as something deeply personal, meaningful in ways we’ll never know—in ways I don’t really want to know. A memorial may be in a public place but the privacy should still be respected.

Here’s the earlier picture of flowers in the same spot:

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    Thanks for another beautiful, respectful, and informative post, Chris, and I’m grateful every day that I know you.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 4062: What is in your heartMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m grateful you publicly share your thoughts, Ann.


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