The Glass Swan

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“The Glass Swan,” Tambuli, Feb. 1990, 15

The Glass Swan

Amy trudged along the sidewalk, dragging her hand across the slats of the wooden fence that surrounded Sister Pedersen’s yard. It’s not fair, she thought. Why do I have to stay indoors reading the newspaper to an old blind lady while everyone else is going to the movies with Emily. And how can I ever be Emily’s friend if I can’t go to the movie with her?

Grudgingly Amy walked up the steps to Sister Pedersen’s house and knocked on the door.

The door swung open, and there stood eighty-year-old Sister Pedersen.

“It’s me, Amy, Sister Pedersen.”

“Come on in, Amy, and sit down here in this armchair. I believe in taking care of business first. Shall I pay you each day you come?” Sister Pedersen asked, opening her purse.

“No, ma’am. Mother said that I shouldn’t take money for reading to you. In family home evening we agreed to work on serving others, and you’re my assignment.”

Sister Pedersen snapped her purse shut, nodded her head, and said, “You may read to me now.”

Amy struggled through reading the newspaper’s front-page articles. She wondered how anyone could consider this a pleasure.

After about forty-five minutes, Sister Pedersen interrupted, “Let’s stop now, Amy. Do you like treasures?”

“I suppose so. What kind of treasures?”

“Follow me, and you’ll see,” Sister Pedersen told her.

“This is my treasure room,” Sister Pedersen announced, as she guided Amy into a small room with several cabinets filled with collectibles: red goblets, silk flowers in painted vases, tiny dolls in native costumes, crystal paperweights, and bright blue plates. “It’s like an antique shop!” she exclaimed, rushing from one cabinet to another to peer at the treasures.

“You probably wonder why a blind lady keeps so many ornaments,” Sister Pedersen said. “When I touch the smooth glass objects or the soft silk fabrics, my fingers experience beauty.”

Amy watched the old lady gently rub a delicate bird fashioned of blown glass. She traced the china roses on a pink vase. Then she picked up a crystal ball etched with an intricate pattern.

“Go ahead. Touch them, Amy,” Sister Pedersen coaxed.

Fascinated by the beauty of the bird, Amy timidly picked it up from the table. It was a swan with its neck arched proudly and its wings spread wide, ready to take flight.

“This swan is wonderful!” Amy whispered.

“A glassblower made it for me when I was very young. He created that lovely bird from liquid glass, and then let me feel all the glass figures in his store. Since that day, whenever I touch my swan, I know that I, too, have ‘seen’ beauty. Now, you look around, and don’t be afraid to handle everything. I’ll go prepare some refreshments for us. I remember how hungry young people are after school.”

Amy held the swan and imagined herself a young blind girl. Hearing sounds of laughter outside, she set the swan down and leaned over the table to look out the window. Emily and all her friends were returning from the movie. Amy didn’t feel as bad about missing it as she thought she would. As she turned away from the window, Amy’s hand accidentally bumped the swan, knocking it to the floor. She quickly picked up the pieces and frantically put them into her pocket.

Sister Pedersen called, “Come downstairs, Amy, and have some biscuits and milk. Then you’d better hurry home, or your mother might not let you come again.”

Amy gulped down her snack nervously. She was too afraid to say anything about the broken glass swan. She said good-bye and quickly left the house.

What should I do? she wondered. I can’t go back, no matter what Mother says. As Amy shut the gate, she looked up and saw Sister Pedersen waving to her. It made her feel worse, somehow.

Walking home from school the next day, Amy passed Sister Pedersen’s house and sighed with relief. At least she wasn’t supposed to read to Sister Pedersen until next week. But she still felt awful, and when she got home, she emptied a container of all the money she had saved and counted it carefully. “I hope it’s enough,” she muttered as she went to find her mother.

After school Monday, Amy slowly approached Sister Pedersen’s house, clutching a white box. When the door opened, she said, “It’s Amy, Sister Pedersen.”

“Come in, Amy. I didn’t think this was the day for your visit, but you’re welcome any time.”

After they sat down, Amy carefully opened the box and placed the new swan in Sister Pedersen’s hands. Swallowing nervously, Amy said, “This is a replacement for the one that I broke. I’m awfully sorry. It was an accident.”

“It’s all right, Amy. I heard it break. I’m glad that you told me, though,” Sister Pedersen said, adding, “I’m sure this bird cost you quite a lot of money, and I want you to keep it and enjoy its beauty. You have given me something more important. You have been an honest and good friend.”

When she left to go home, Amy happily turned at the gate to call good-bye to Sister Pedersen, her new friend, who stood in the doorway, waving.

Photography by Craig Dimond