Saturday, January 12, 2008

High Winds and Guardian Angels (an interesting, if somewhat longish story)

Standing at the corner of Park and Genesee Streets, the heart of the Syracuse Polish Community, is the proud and stately anchor of the neighborhood. The twin grey towers of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus rise to the sky, the carved stone and stained glass sternly watching over the Polish Home, Harrison’s (Famous) Bakery and Giminski-Wysocki’s Funeral Home. The local avian population was practicing their crosswind landings in the parking lot. High wind advisories had been broadcast incessantly, but it was hardly necessary; most of the grounds were strewn with the debris from three neighborhoods over. But no earth bound force of nature could blow away the angels watching over the funeral home that morning.
The morning crew had arrived early. Mr. and Mrs. H. opened the doors before 8:00 am, and warmed up the building. Dorothy, the cleaning lady, spot-checked the windows out front and the glass doors. The crystal chandeliers shone and danced in the morning light, and Mr. Hall’s dapper hired crew, held on to their hats and clutched their long black coats around themselves as they lined up hearse and limo, and the countless cars of family and friends. Presently, Jenny Wysocki arrived in state, and began presiding over the foyer, discussing in Polish and English the upcoming schedule with the priests.
Boutonnieres were affixed to the pallbearers, and it was a good thing they were a hearty bunch; caskets are rarely known for their aerodynamic properties, and so the procession out the large foyer entrance and to the hearse was a tough one. They were leaving fifteen minutes earlier than their usual time, as the service was to be held at Our Lady of Peace Church across town. Flowers disappeared into the trucks, families dissolved into their vehicles. Dorothy wiped the last fingerprints off the front door and said, “Don’t go out the front door, Jenny- I’ve already locked it”, as Jenny reached for the handle. “Go out the back; it’s closer to your car anyway.” Not two minutes later, Mrs. H. heard Dorothy yell, “Come quickly, come quickly! There’s been trouble!” No sooner than Jenny had gone out the back door, then the huge metal and glass chandelier out front, ripped from its moorings by the morning’s high wind, had plummeted 30 or so feet from the overhang and smashed to bits on the ground. Dorothy was trembling; she was so shook up. “I was just out there.” “Five minutes earlier,” she kept saying, “it would have killed someone.” The debris was cleared away as quickly as possible, and the crumpled remains stashed in the garage. “Go home and have a cup of tea, Dorothy”, said Mrs. H. “And on your way home, you might stop and buy a lottery ticket or two. It just might be your lucky day.”

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