It was not just another spring Saturday in Boston, not at 191 Commonwealth Avenue anyway. The magnolias that help to make the avenue one of the most beautiful in the world were losing their petals, but the flowering crab apples burst white against the brown façades and the stately green elms. Mrs. Louisa Thoron arose and breakfasted; one is tempted to say “as usual,” but it was more than a usual day. It was her hundredth birthday. On the day before she had gone to Symphony, as usual, and on the day after she would go to church, as usual. On this day she journeyed out for a birthday lunch with some friends and relatives and came home to enjoy, we hope, flowers sent by her admiring fellow residents of 191 Commonwealth.
The building in which she lives, a commodious and engagingly obsolescent structure of six stories, the first apartment building constructed in Boston’s land-filled Back Bay, is only slightly older than Louisa Thoron. The elms on which she has gazed for longer than anyone we know are slightly younger than she. And the tree just broken into leaf by the curb where the intrepid lady enters and leaves taxicabs is only a few months old. It is an earnest young flowering pear, planted a short time ago by Jedediah Morfit’s father to celebrate Jedediah’s arrival, the first child to be born at 191 Commonwealth in more years than any of us can remember. Sometimes, when Louisa Thoron emerges to savor her hundredth spring, Jedediah Morfit emerges, too (with a little assistance), to savor his first.
There is something about this cast of characters—the old lady, the infant boy, the towering elms, the young pear tree, the new season—that perfumes the senses, that applies that ounce of civet to sweeten one’s morale at a sour time. Man indeed prevails. Life goes on, begins anew, goes on. These are useful truisms to entertain at a moment when talk abounds of crumbling institutions, failed concepts, inept leaders. They are thoughts appropriate, for example, as accompaniment to the comments in this issue of The Atlantic (beginning at page 63) about a proposal to change the way the country governs itself. An essay in the May Atlantic suggested abolition of the vice presidency of the United States. A majority of persons invited to comment on the article, including the present Vice President, find themselves trusting the system as it now stands.
“The Constitution is a good structure,” writes former Chief Justice Earl Warren. “Little harm has ever come to the nation as a result of following with integrity the principles embodied in it.” Wise and helpful words in a time of cynicism and confusion. We suspect they’ll be worth repeating when Jedediah’s tree is one hundred years old.