12/19/19

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Here we have the continuing story of the Literary Lion – this one is called The New Literary Lion.

Well, we’re almost exactly a month beyond the theft of our Little Free Library books and my own Little Literary Lion (see November 21 This Week’s Moment). Despite a huge wave of community compassion, with Facebook posts being shared over and over, people looking for the lion as they drove throughout Waukesha (and by one particular address), looking on CraigsList, Facebook Marketplace, and other for-sale sites, articles in the local newspapers, and on and on…Little Literary has not come home. I can’t tell you how I’ve been moved and heart-warmed by the support over what some might consider silly. But after my blog on what that little statue, and the two before him, meant to me, that he’s way more than a concrete lion, people just HELPED. It wasn’t isolated to Waukesha – thoughts of love and encouragement came from around the United States and around the world.

Little Literary Lion.

Sadly, I kept an eye out for another Literary Lion. There were so many things that he had to be. Heavy, for one. In good shape, of course. Not overly scary – so many children visited Little Literary. So the new lion had to have a sweet face. He had to look intelligent. Thoughtful. Literary, donchaknow. He had to look at home in front of a typewriter, if there was a typewriter for him.

I saw a lion listed on Facebook Marketplace that really pulled at my heartstrings. He was called “vintage”. He was so vintage, his front paws had worn away. I wanted to give him a safe home where he could continue to disintegrate in peace. But, I reminded myself, that’s not the purpose of the Literary Lion.

Then I saw another one that I just fell in love with. A lying-down lion. He was relaxed, laid back, his tail curled neatly to his side. Thoughtful face. But…he was two and a half hours away, in a town called Elwood in Illinois. With my schedule, I just couldn’t figure out how I could spare five hours in driving, and who knows how much time actually picking up the lion. I asked the seller if he could be shipped. It would be really expensive, he told me. And he was afraid the lion would break. I put a notice up on Facebook, looking for someone who lived close to the lion, who could pick him up and meet me halfway. But there were no takers. Reluctantly, I looked away. But every time I did a search on the Marketplace, both for my own Little Literary, in case the thieves put him up for sale, and for a new lion, I saw that thoughtful face and I hovered there for a bit.

Little Lion’s for-sale photo.

Then not one, but two lions came up for sale nearby. I had some trepidation – what would I do with two? And they were roaring, which I was afraid would make them scary. But I contacted the seller and off we went, me, Michael, and my son Andy. When we pulled up, the woman came out, looked at Hemi, my car, and said, “You’re planning on taking them home in that?”

She neglected to tell me that when she purchased the lions, they were delivered in a truck and put in place with a crane. They weighed 500 pounds. EACH. They would have broken my car’s suspension.

We went home lion-less.

When I posted about this latest fiasco on Facebook two nights ago, a student asked me about the one I loved in Illinois. I explained that he was still available, but just too far away. I posted his picture, sighed, and went downstairs to teach my class.

When I came back up, I found a message from my friend Stephanie. Stephanie used to be one of the hosts of an NPR radio interview show about books, and she interviewed me many times. We always had so much fun, and our interviews could have gone on for hours. She moved away to St. Louis, my birthplace, a few years ago. “Surprise!” she messaged me. “The little lion from Elwood, IL will be picked up tomorrow by me as I’m on my way to Chicago.” Her husband, she explained, would continue up to Wisconsin and pass the lion off to me.

I was floored. And thrilled. Oh, holy cow. Or holy lion, I guess. Oh, merry Christmas!

On Wednesday, she sent me a photo of the lion riding next to her in her car. He was so heavy, he set off the seatbelt indicator. He had to be strapped in. I am getting a very safety-conscious lion.

Riding in Stephanie’s car.

That night, I messaged the seller, thanking him for his time and being willing to work with Stephanie to get the lion to me. His wife answered. “When I heard that your friend was bringing you the lion, I was happy because you really wanted it…I truly wanted you to have it after you tried so many ways to get him.” I sent her a link to the previous blog, so she would understand just how much this lion means to me. She said, “I love the story and, yes, you are a Literary Lion. Fierce in your conviction and love. May he be your new Literary Lion and friend.  I will miss him.”

I’ve gained a friend, and not just in lion form.

Today, I met Stephanie’s husband in the parking lot of a shopping mall, and between the two of us, we managed to get the lion from one car to the next. He is just…everything. I sang all the way home, and he rocked out in the back seat.

In Hemi, heading home.

The next step…getting him under the Little Free Library. Am I worried he might be stolen too? Not so much now. He is way heavier than any of my previous Literary Lions, and he’s low to the ground. His long body will be all the way under the Library, and there is no way he can be tilted forward to lift up. He would have to be dragged by at least two people straight out, and then lifted, and by then, the noise would alert us. A security camera is also going in, and possibly a GPS tracker.

Trust me, I hate having to even think of these things. But I guess, in this world, in these days, I have to.

But…this world also contains people who search for missing concrete lions. Who try to find new ones. Who go out of their way to help me to bring one home, the perfect one. I am just astounded at the number of people, students, readers, friends, strangers, who rushed to reassure me that my dreams are still intact, still viable, and that in many ways, I am living them right now. I’m not just reaching for my dreams. I am holding them firmly in my hands.

I am a Literary Lion.

And if Little Literary still finds his way home? He will take a seat beside this new lion. Literary Lion #4. His name is still to be chosen – I’m kinda leaning toward Elwood. But he’s here.

Thank you to everyone who made this happen, and who created this Moment Of Happiness. Thank you especially to Stephanie Lecci. Love you lots. And thank you to Timothy and Betty, who sent this little lion on his way to me.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, happy, happy, happy, everyone.

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