West Peoria Times



Peoria West High School senior Graham Doubletree has been accepted next fall at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Well-known by local audiences for his many performances in Peoria West productions—most recently portraying Tony in "West Side Story"—Graham will be sorely missed by his teachers, his friends, and his fans. All of whom, along with the staff here at W.P. Times, wish him much success in the coming year. Safe journey, Graham; bon voyage and 'break a leg.'


It had been hard to see him go so far from home; all the way to England. Edith's heart, habitually stretched by several miles of well-kept distance, felt an extra-poignant tug the day Graham departed. She had caught a glimpse in the ticket line; another on the escalator; a final look as he climbed the ramp, and, of course, she had seen off the plane. Discreetly. From an adjacent terminal. Careful, always careful to ensure that these transgressions went undetected.

She had signed a legal document—witnessed and notarized. She had waived her rights in seconds; the few it took to inscribe her lawful name: Edith Eloise Murray, her lack of education painfully evident to both parties as she pretended to understand what the steely-eyed lawyer urged—lest retrospective hormones tempt her to renege. Not that Edith would have; she owed the Doubletrees everything: her rescue from the homeless shelter, her drastic rise in income, her leap from East Peoria and the slum where she was reared to a residence rivaling God's, in Edith's imagination, with ornate iron gates demarcating the neighborhood. How could she do anything less than demonstrate heartfelt gratitude for the kindness, gracious lifestyle, private quarters, and generous stipend that George and Angela Doubletree initially provided? Regardless the contract's legalese, Edith would have signed, and to this day harbors no... well, some regrets.

At the time, however, she adored the perks of her position! First and foremost was her room, with adjoining toilet, drapes on the windows, shades on the light bulbs, heirloom canopy bed, and, best of all, no foster-family siblings pestering her to share. A huge improvement were such lap-of-luxury advantages; she relished their splendor. And renounced, forever after, her humiliating poverty. Room, and board, and salary, too a handsome salary, at that, considering most of her peers were unemployed (half of those in jail), their sour-grapes envy yet another wedge between Edith and self-styled 'superiors,' people who resented a retarded girl's good fortune and often made remarks intended to demean. Until Edith shut them out—thereby shutting in isolation. Her trappings, true, had changed in terms of comfort and convenience, but her social standing had scarcely climbed a rung. When all was said and done, she remained a lowly servant, not a member of the family she so coveted—and from which she eventually was expelled.

At the outset, though, she savored life's revamped 'necessities': gourmet food, designer clothing, an impressive posh address. She put on airs. She put on weight. The pounds were gained, in fact, so quickly, there were fears she might be pregnant. False alarm; the weight-gain ebbed. But she stayed bigger than before, which seemed to squelch her boyfriend's ardor—though her refusal to lend him money may have been more decisive. In parting, he forgave her being "stingy" but condemned her "horse-face ugliness."

With romance ushered out, loneliness settled in. Former friends proved fickle, new friends hard to find. The few who lingered looked askance at Edith's role as a domestic, writing her off, in time, as a latter-day house-nigger. To cope, she slaved. That is, she threw her heart and soul into her vocation. The house was spotless. Edith's worth became synonymous with her benefactors' praise. They did not scrimp in this regard; both paid frequent, glowing compliments, which did much to foster Edith's confidence and overall security. Yet, had she won their trust less completely, had her efforts been less reliable, her commitment less intense, her need to please them less sincere, perhaps...

She closes the covers of her cherished, leather-bound scrapbook, their 'shush' sound hushing second guesses that never changed anything anyway. Devoid of family and friends, back then, there was no one to dissuade her; gullibility and inexperience had played respective parts; there were many explanations for the fateful choice she made. Yet she alone must bear the blame for any heartache caused. She alone must manage. She alone must survive... until time itself stood still...

... as it does in her calendar's photograph, its landscape stark, primordial...

She clasps her spinster's face. Oh, to turn the clock back decades, centuries, epochs, restore to unspoiled beauty the bygone natural world, revisit it as the captioned scene suggests—"Origins"—and start life anew... without the awful burden of Original Sin (not Adam's, Eve's, or their biblical descendants' rather Edith Murray's own).

Head bowed, she prays:

(Oh my God, I am heartily sorry), phrases learned by rote (for having offended Thee), words like well-worn rosary beads (And I detest all my sins, because of Thy just punishments); it is an inner voice that speaks (but most of all because they offend Thee, oh Lord) through silent lips compressed (who art all good, and deserving of all my love), taut forehead creased (I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace), forgiveness being Edith's ultimate objective (to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasions of sin), hers for herself less assured than was Merciful God Almighty's (Amen).



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