June 9, Levy Senior Center Foundation Audience Regaled with a Ray Bradbury Story from His Classic Novel “Dandelion Wine.”
Seated on a cushioned chair with a book in her hand surrounded by some nondescript objects, the Chicago-based performer came alive from this unremarkable tableau.
Within minutes, the nearly 400 listeners from all across Chicagoland via Zoom were transported to Green Town, Ill., in the year 1928. In this small town they met Douglas Spaulding, the central character in the story, the one most closely resembling Ray Bradbury as a young boy.
Douglas is awakening this summer — “I’m noticing I’m a live!” — paying attention to all the signs of summer that he took for granted in previous years: mowing the lawn; the smell of freshly mowed grass; going fishing; picking dandelions and fox grapes and wild strawberries.
Doug and Bill Forrester, the boarder who lives in Doug’s grandparents’ house, arrive at the drug store in town and sit at the soda fountain. Bill orders a lime-vanilla ice, which catches the attention of 95-year old Miss Helen Loomis, seated at a table nearby. She invites them to join her, which they do, and Bill says to her, “I know you. You’re Helen Loomis. I was in love with you once.” Without missing a beat, Miss Loomis replies, “Now that’s the way I like a conversation to open.”
Most of the story Miss Wells told that day is from the chapter The Swan; it deals with true love, aging, youthful appearances, being noticed, reincarnation, and time travel.
Bill is 31 and looking for adventure in his life and his career. Miss Loomis is nearing the end of her life, her youthful beauty is but a memory. “The dragon,” she says, “has swallowed the swan.”
But the two cannot stop talking. He sees her, really sees her. He is spellbound listening to her. Bill reminds Helen of a man she had known and loved in her youth, easily 70 years before. Yet the connection between them is real. “William,” she says, “I have always known the quality of love is the quality of the mind. Your mind here and my mind here. And these afternoons are like none I can remember.”
When Ms. Wells finished her hour-long presentation, one listener commented, “I feel like I'm in the middle of a summer day in my backyard. Lovely!”
Many agreed it was the perfect salve to staying home during a pandemic.
On June 16, Ms. Wells presented “Love and Frankenstein with Mary Shelley.” All Levy Lectures are free and open to the public, but registration is required at lscfevanston.org.
This presentation is available to watch on the Levy Senior Center Foundation’s YouTube channel.
By Wendi Kromash as published in the Evanston RoundTable