Archive for Wednesday, March 15, 2000

New streetlamps illuminate our past

March 15, 2000

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky. It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by; for every night at teatime and before you take your seat, with lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Last week, when Dan Seitter climbed a ladder to adjust a new streetlamp, part of Tonganoxie's downtown renovation project, he reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "The Lamplighter."

When my children were small and I read them this poem, I used to muse at the way in which we see the world when we allow ourselves to view it from the perspective of a child.

I remember when my children would wait at the kitchen window each Thursday morning, trash day in the town where we lived, so that they could wave to the man who picked up the trash. Not only did they know his name, he knew theirs. And he, or "Mr. Bob," as my children called him, always waved back.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea, and my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be; but I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do, o Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

Oh yes, and the careers we'd choose if we were children.

Of course today the firefighter might replace the lamplighter in desired careers in the mind of a very small child. Or perhaps the good doctor, the dentist people they know, people they see. I know after I started working in the newspaper business, my youngest child, then 5, frequently visited me at the office, and one day said that when he grew up, he would be a newspaper. Not a newspaper editor, mind you but a newspaper.

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door, and Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more; and oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light; o Leerie, see a little child and wave to him tonight!

And while the old-fashioned streetlamps go up in our town, and while they burn brightly each night, we too, might pause in wonderment at our good fortune to have a lamp before our door. From comments I've heard from citizens of all ages, it sounds like people are driving out of their way at night to see the new lights.

Isn't it wonderful that these changes are appreciated. To know that the little town we love, even though it seems to be becoming more citified every day, is still, and is likely to remain, at least through these four blocks along Fourth Street, just an old-fashioned little town. Complete with a lamplighter who waves to us each night not but shining brightly all the same.

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