Gift at the Gardner
It’s 2019. Freshman-year Kasey Corra is looking through the gift shop of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on a school field trip (the Class of 2022’s second trip at this location, to be precise). Suddenly, there he is: a four by four inch ceramic tile of a cat… I think. This particular animal was rather misshapen, with a swollen, patterned back and a pale face with a very human mustache.
It was love at first sight. I called over Tess Farr ‘22, who immediately suggested we gift the tile to our beloved (and probably exhausted) Latin teacher, Mrs. Demirjian. I purchased the bizarre item before I could think twice, and can confidently say that it was the best $15 purchase I’ve ever invested in. The next day, our class signed the backside of the coaster and presented it to Mrs. Demirjian, who almost certainly would have rather been teaching us the third declension than selecting a name for a ceramic cat. But with a brilliant stroke of genius, we decided to call him Hugo.
Since that afternoon, Hugo has become a faithful member of our Latin class. Mrs. Demirjian (reluctantly) brought him home with her during quarantine. He followed us from the classic Latin classroom of Room 13 to the fishbowl, where we hold AP Latin. Fellow Latin scholar Catherine Olohan ‘22 designs custom holiday costumes for him (the pilgrim, Santa Claus, and Cupid ones are fan-favorites). His place of honor on the whiteboard is adorned with plastic olive branches, and many of us give him friendly pats on our way out the door.
I’m sure the image of Hugo in all his mustached glory has some sort of historical significance. But to us, Hugo was a friend, a companion, a support system.
That is, until he disappeared.
On October 28, 2021, knee deep in a Caesar translation, Catherine Olohan ‘22 mentioned that Hugo deserved a Halloween costume. I laughed, and glanced towards Hugo’s spot on the sill of the whiteboard. Faith Chen ‘22 and Ana Fernandez ‘22 gasped. Tess spoke first. “Wait, where is Hugo?”
The plastic branches had been strewn on the ground, and the pool of sunlight that usually settled on his weird whisker-mustache feature lay empty. All thoughts of De Bello Gallico were consumed by panic. “My heart stopped and the world turned gray,” Faith said, remembering the dreadful day. Mrs. Demirjian sighed (via Zoom), though I’m positive she was just as concerned (if not more) than the rest of us.
Mrs. Schickel, our lovely in-person advisor, frantically searched Room 13 for him. Emma Barry ‘22, author of the Ask Alice column of the newspaper, advertised his disappearance in the Looking Glass newsletter. We have searched every inch of the fishbowl classroom. But to no avail.
We’re not pointing fingers, but we suspect foul play. Perhaps Mrs. Demirjian was lonely without him while teaching online and brought him home for her own comfort. Or, perhaps the tile was accidentally chipped by a hasty student who was all too aware of the importance of Hugo, and hid him with fear of reprimand. Regardless of who (or what) is responsible for his disappearance, I would like to see him again before I graduate, to decorate him in a Santa costume once more and to attend my final Latin class under his watchful eye.
Hugo was last seen in his Cupid costume around October 26. He is wearing a pink tutu, white angel wings, and holding a bow and arrow. No punishment will be given to any student or teacher who comes forward honestly with the tile. Any information about Hugo can be sent anonymously via the Ask Alice submission box in the cafeteria, or by emailing any member of the AP Latin class.
Thank you for your empathy, care, and support as we continue to search for Hugo, and I look forward to the day I can once again translate Latin in the presence of my longtime friend and mascot.
Kasey Corra ‘22, Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief