As all the buzz about Marilyn Hagerty’s Â Olive Garden reviewÂ begins to fade, Mrs. Hagerty seems to be keeping her feet firmly planted. Â It’s been a two-week whirlwind for her, but she has returned home after a New York trip with interviews and TV appearances. Â She met all her deadlines for the Grand Forks Herald during all the hubbub and seems content to resume her 85th year of life right where she left it when the internet intruded. Many writers similarly situated would be milking it for all it’s worth (probably myself included,) but Mrs. Hagerty seems to recognize that these days, Andy Worhol’s 15 minutes of fame is often anÂ exaggeration. Â I believe she has represented her newspaper, her state, and her fellow Americans well, and I wrote her the following email today to give her my reflections on herÂ odyssey:
Dear Mrs. Hagerty:
Your recent experience reminded me of the classic â€œYes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clausâ€ story. Â Those predatory bloggers who mocked your writing and called your column â€œpatheticâ€ are Virginiaâ€™s nasty little friends who tried to tell her there was no Santa. Â Your review of Olive Garden was a reminder that this country is not just New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, but rather Grand Forks, ND; Salisbury, MD; and thousands of other â€œsmallâ€ towns in between. Â To quote Francis Church in his letter to Virginia, â€œThey think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.â€ Â Indeed, â€œhow dreary would be the world if there were noâ€ Grand Forks, if all of life was really Gawker, Youtube, politics, and the Kardashians. Â Perhaps your review went â€œviralâ€ to begin with because of cynicism (of which I myself am often guilty,) but I believe it continued because it resonated with most people in this country who live in a chicken-Alfredo-and-warm-breadsticks America. Â So, the borrow from Francis Church again, â€œYes, New York City, there is a Grand Forks and an Olive Garden. They exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.â€ Â Long after the website hits fade away, life will go on in fly-over country. Â â€œIs it all real? Ah, [New York,] in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.â€
Although today is the first day of spring, it may be that this season and the circumstances surrounding Marilyn Hagerty and her review cannot bear the weight of Mr. Church’s soaring prose the way Santa Claus and Christmastime could. Â And yet this is as good a time as any to remember that the simple things are often the most meaningful and most enduring. Â Sometimes, even in Grand Forks, when they offer you raspberry lemonade, you just need water. Â Thank you, Mrs. Hagerty, for the reminder.
Jeryl Bier blogs atÂ Speak With Authority