Cambridge City Councilor Denise Simmons reads the dedication while surrounded by Ms. Elder's family
(l-r) Dave, Marie, Renee, and Jamie
It was after Sunday church at the top of June, when Sister Renee said “They are going to dedicate a sign to my mother” And while I know I responded to her maybe even busted a big smile, my emotions about her mother wound up within, getting stuck in my throat like a thick frozen frappe that refused to go down. Over the past year, the freeze had come up too fast whenever someone mentioned my wise neighbor, the one who passed away on my birthday, the lady I called Ms. Elder…
Utter grey sky, rainy humid downpour, the weather respectfully mourned right along with family and friends who gathered on June 10th to dedicate the corner of Cherry and Harvard streets in Area 4 to Ms. Edith Brown Elder. Elder was loved, doted upon, by Renee and Marie her two daughters; she was adored in the community where she resided at 182 Harvard Street for 56 years. “Why should your mom be remembered?” asked this reporter and Renee said, “Because of who she was in the neighborhood. She was a selfless woman. Always wanting to help whoever she could. She was always teaching. Very loving always picking up extra daughters and sons and considered everyone as one of her own.“
I met Ms. Elder out of worried-nosiness. She used to walk her dog Handsome every morning right on into my front yard aka public park where he did his business. When I first saw the five foot tall woman who was seventy something years old (and pounds) walking with sunglasses, headphones, and large dog I thought ‘she something else I gotta meet her’. It was a spring day in 2008 when my kid and I said hi and Ms. Elder got to talking about her rose bush and the conversation turned quickly toward kids, education, my daughter’s school and what subject she liked. Every morning that I saw her after our initial chat it was time for my few words (or pouring of the heart) and her lesson. Elder’s gravelly voice, the kindness, her throaty laugh – it all must have been the bait that kept me swimming into the old woman’s wise waters.
Cambridge City Councilor Denise Simmons read the official dedication, which came approved by her City Hall colleagues. Simmons praised Elder for her devotion to family and enthusiasm towards education. Ms. Edith taught in Boston Public Schools for forty-two years then volunteered for the Cambridge Public Schools after retiring from her job in ‘Beantown’ her official birthplace. “My mother was
always giving and [tried] to help you strive” said Renee. “She always encouraged people to achieve their goals. Even with me going back to school she was always there.”
At the family gathering in Elder’s ol' apartment, the lot of us ate good eats and mentioned memories of the neighborhood matriarch. It was interesting that their were many educators amongst those gathered who I had known for years before ever meeting Ms. Elder. Her sister-n-law taught me in high school and Elder’s brother and son in law were professors who guided me through college. Now that I think on it I wonder how many times those folks may have directly quoted wisdom to me that they had gotten from Ms. Edith. Funny how weaves of wisdom are a web unbeknownst to us. So glad very glad I listened to the Spirit and chose to stop and meet then learn from the one they call Edith Brown Elder. And since that word education keeps coming back up I ought to hunker down and truly honor Ms. Elder by finishing college, an act I am sure she would push me to complete.