The Revolt for Hannah Smith
Rosemary Cacolice Brown | Monica Johnson
Nobody living on Cherry Street paid much attention to the silver-haired widow wearing an ever-present apron as she sat in her wicker porch rocker while feeding bread crumbs to the birds gathered on her lawn. Were they being unkind? Not really. Over time, all the young families that filtered into the surrounding white-siding bungalows simply assumed they had nothing in common with Hannah Smith.
Of course, they were nice enough in passing. They’d smile and politely wave, but that was it, never giving her more than a token of courteous attention. And always, like the true lady she was, Hannah would smile and wave in return. But did they really see her? Or observe that sometimes she’d exchange her rickrack-trimmed apron for the flowery one with white pocket ruffles? No, not at all. She was simply there, like a pleasant, quiet presence.
Then, on one late afternoon in June, something was happening. Cherry Street was gaining a new resident across the street, two doors down. No, not a young family this time like those too busy with their children, their livelihoods, their mortgages, to pay any heed to Hannah. This time it was but one lone person, a gentleman of sorts.
Hannah watched as he moved back and forth between the front door and his muddy-brown truck, hauling in a worn kitchen table, four chairs and one odd-looking table lamp. When he briefly turned her way, she smiled her Hannah-smile and waved her Hannah-wave. But no response was forthcoming.
Short minutes later, the cavalry arrived by way of two Cherry Street fathers who strolled over from their white-siding bungalows to introduce themselves, thereby assisting the gentleman with what was left, one twin-sized mattress, one small dresser and one lumpy gray chair, probably a recliner. Hannah was amazed, not by the neighborly interest she’d never known, but by the sheer payload that came off that truck!
But that was Hannah. Not one envious notion in her sweet soul.
Thereafter, Cherry Street returned to normal with all the comings and goings; children at play, people running errands and cutting their grass while Hannah sat daily in her wicker rocker wearing one of her two aprons as the birds eagerly gathered for the feast she offered.
Until that Saturday in mid-August, when everything changed.
There she was like always, tossing those breadcrumbs when a patrol car stopped at her front curb. She watched intently as the car door opened to reveal a police officer. Her eyes widened as he climbed the steps and stood beside her.
“So sorry, ma’am” he began somberly. “There’s been an ongoing complaint, resulting in an injunction against your practice of feeding birds. You’ll have to cease and desist because, apparently, too many droppings are landing on the home of one of your neighbors.”
Hannah was confused. After all, she’d been tossing bread crumbs to her feathered friends for so long on Cherry Street with never a hint of displeasure from anyone, at least not that she could recall! Still, the law was the law and she’d have to abide by it. She obediently signed the presented form as the officer stood quietly with an apologetic expression.
Well, she’d have to get along and she must try! So, for the next two weeks the wicker porch rocker remained empty as Hannah tossed no bread crumbs. Eventually, one by one, the birds flew off until they completely disappeared from her front lawn.
Then, one fine morning in early September, just as a hazy mist was beginning to lift, she heard a firm knock at the front door while she was brewing tea and removing her blueberry muffins from the oven. Quickly adjusting her apron — the flowery one with white pocket ruffles this time — she rushed to see who it was. Upon opening the front door, there stood two young mommies who often waved as they drove by, looking quite concerned.
“We live up the street,” one of them said.
“We haven’t seen you on the porch for two weeks now,” said the other, “and do hope you’re all right!”
Hannah was astounded! Before today, no Cherry Street resident had ever made an effort to know anything about her.
Upon introducing themselves she did likewise, graciously inviting them inside. Soon they were sharing tea and blueberry muffins at her pedestal kitchen table covered with lemon-colored oil cloth. For the first time in ages, Hannah’s kitchen was alive with happy chatter — until she answered their question, revealing the reason for her absence from the front porch.
Oh, my goodness! The young mommies were fuming upset! Who would be against feeding birds, of all things! Well, they would certainly do something about that!
And they did. First they called the local newspaper and laid out the dilemma. They gathered more Cherry Streeters and marched with signs on city hall. They spoke their mind at the next council meeting and delivered flyers to the local pet store, drug store and green grocer. When the nightly news picked up the story, they spilled it all out.
With such widespread clamoring, the cowering city council had no choice. Quickly, with no objections, they rescinded their injunction against Hannah Smith, eager to have the kerfuffle behind them.
Though no one ever learned who the cranky complainer was — though they all had their suspicions — it no longer mattered. Once again, dear Hannah was free to sit in her wicker porch rocker and toss bread crumbs to her beloved feathered friends as they found their way back to her front lawn.
And the best part of all? All of the surrounding neighbors were now keyed in to her daily well-being, some even occasionally dropping by with bags of birdseed. The only notable difference now was the new apron she proudly wore, presented by all the Cherry Streeters who championed her cause — a spiffy little number depicting, what else, all manner of birds, and nicely accented with red piping around the edges.