Tiny Tessa Holmes, bending the microphone far down reach her face as she stood alongside her older sister Taylor at the podium, read a poem, while winning the hearts of those around her last month in the South Pasadena City Council chambers.
Tessa was already warmed up in her delivery, used to the attention, as moments earlier she and Taylor asked the public to join them in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, requested by Robert Joe who was about to be sworn in as the city’s newest mayor.
Joe couldn’t stop beaming, admiring his granddaughters as Tessa read the Ode to South Pasadena, a poetic message written by Ron Koertge, the city’s first poet laureate.
With a nearly full council chamber looking on, Tessa, with Taylor next to her, read Koertge’s words, drawing a few oohs and ahhs from the seated guests, including council members, the city manager and city attorney moved by the moment. It seemed the perfect prelude to the pomp and circumstance of the swearing in that would soon follow as City of South Pasadena Chaplain Sam Park waited his turn to deliver the invocation, kicking off the brief ceremony ahead of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Kathryn Barger administering the oath of office to Joe.
Making a smooth delivery, Tessa read Koertge’s poem, a tribute to the city, saying:
“Water made the orange groves possible though all that remains now is the name of a boulevard that celebrates them just as Mission Street and El Centro celebrate the heritage of the city.
Today kids in orange-and-black drink root beer floats at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda
Fountain as they flirt with their phones. Parents wait for a table at Gus’s Barbeque, and grandparents snap pictures of toddlers around the enormous Moreton Bay Fig Tree by the library as they remember when they were children grinning into their own fathers’ cameras. The Cawston Ostrich Farm is just a memory but the Dinosaur Farm opens at 10 a.m.
Waiting on the shelves at Vidéothèque are films that debuted at the Rialto Theater in 1925. Hollywood has a second home here, transforming parts of the city into Indiana or Massachusetts.
Then crews dismantle everything the next day, leaving the neighborhood intact just as relentless freeway fighters kept the city whole and undivided.
Beauty is everywhere in South Pasadena. Early morning light, yellow and mild like a shawl that has been laundered a few times, falls across joggers and commuters. It wakes the parrots that circle and squawk. Passengers on the Gold Line put on their sunglasses. Just below Grand Avenue, a pair of coyotes make their way back to the arroyo. As a truck bound for Trader Joe’s rumbles by, they slide into some shrubbery and disappear. On the lawn a sign says ‘HATE HAS NO HOME HERE.’ A house sparrow and a robin land and begin to sing.”
Next up was Park, patiently waiting in the wings, ready to give his heartfelt, spiritual message that asked for a higher authority to look over the city under Joe’s watch.
Before launching into it, a smiling Park drew a laugh, saying: “It’s my great honor to give the invocation today. I will tell you, they say never follow a child. To follow that up is a monumental task.”