childhood

Staying in Focus: Signs of Spring, and Poetry

 

No matter how cold and dreary the weather is, there is something in the air that hints of spring. Maybe it is that one day a week when the temperatures  creep past 70 and we decide to take a walk. As we travel through our neighborhood,  I see changes all around. From the crocus and daffodils that encircle the tree mounds. to the pink blossoms on a Japanese cherry tree,and  the full out white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees, it is obvious that spring is fighting to vanquish old man winter. We pass a weeping willow tree covered with tiny green leaves and  notice new growth appearing on our knock out roses. The yellow of forsythia helps to draw the eye away from the still sleeping Bermuda grass. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly and hope that we are nearing the end of this long, cold winter grows stronger every day.

I have two favorite spring poems I would like to share with you. The first is by ee cummings:

Spring

when all the world is mudluscious…

when the world is puddle-wonderful.

–  ee cummings

I love the words mudluscious and puddle-wonderful!

 

My other favorite poem is Spring Morning by A.A . Milne

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.poems

,Down to the stream here the king cups grow –

Up on the hill where the pine trees blow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

 

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,

Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.

Where am I going? The shadows pass

Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

 

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,

You’d sail on water as blue as air,

And you’d see me here in the fields and say:

“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”

 

Where am I going? The high rooks call:

“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”

Where am I going? The ring doves coo;

“We do have beautiful things to do.”

 

If you were a bird, and lived on high,

You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,

You’d say to the wind when it took you away:

That’s where I wanted to go today.

 

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.

What does it matter where people go?

Down to the wood where the blue bells grow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

– A. A. Milne

I love the imagery in the first poem – spring and mud and puddles become mudluscious and wonderful to the writer. The second one speaks to me of childhood. A windy Saturday morning, nowhere you have to be, walking along, finding flowers and listening to the birds, imagining being a cloud or a bird flying by- it doesn’t matter where you are going, the important part is the journey.

 

To a child, it matters not if the sun is shining or rain is pouring from the sky. Both offer opportunity for discovery and fun. One of my boys loved to stomp his boots in puddles, He could not pass them by without  a splash. Certainly not to put myself in the above august company, but I also wrote  a spring poem many years ago. I actually sold the poem to a children’s magazine, but unfortunately the magazine suspended publication before my poem was published.

Puddles

I like to walk out in the rain,

along the road and through the trees

I like to stomp in puddles then,

my pants get wet right to my knees

The water splashes all about

My new red  boots go squishy-squish

when I get home , my mom will say,

“You should have been a fish!”

-pc 1988

 

Wecome Spring!

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Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Our House

Daily Prompt : Our House   What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall. 

The house I grew up in…1319 Ringwood Avenue, Haskell, NJ.It was an old house, even back then, in 1953.Photo_0039_3 It was a two story house with a screened front porch, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a big country kitchen, living room and a semi-finished basement.  It had a front “parlor” designated for receiving guests, but we were much more casual a family, and everyone gravitated  to my mother’s warm, friendly kitchen. In later years, my father knocked down the wall separating the living room and the parlor, into one large family room.IMG_0003

The three bedrooms were all upstairs, so if we needed to use the facilities, we had to go downstairs through the living room and into the kitchen. The bathroom was located off the kitchen and contained a commode, sink and  a shower. We had no bathtub, and when we were little we were bathed in the kitchen sink!IMG_0001 The tile behind me in the picture was red as was the ceiling. Thus it became known ad Mom’s red kitchen. You can see the red ceiling in this next picture, of a common occurrence at our house -guests.IMG_0004 My mother was one of nine children and her mother, our grandma,  lived next door, so there was  a steady stream of visitors for birthdays, holidays, or to play cards on a Saturday night. The door was always open at Jack and Ann’s. Our friends were always welcome , too. The basement evolved from a playroom for little ones, to a hang out spot for cousins and friends. My earliest memory of the house was sitting on the front porch on parade day – we had them for memorial day, veteran’s day,and the Fourth of July. We’d sit with our grandma, and wave to the paraders, and then later the Struble clan would descend on us for a big picnic that lasted well after the fireflies lit the night sky. Six of us lived in that house, and four of us were raised there. I left only when I married, at age 23. Somehow we all managed to take our showers,  fix our hair and put on our makeup, with only one bathroom.

Today my husband and I live in a house with 3 full baths, one  a master bath with  a big tub and separate shower. We managed to talk to our friends on one landline telephone, no cell phones in those days. By the time   we were dating, though, dad added  a phone in the basement. Despite these austere , in today’s world, circumstances, we did not feel deprived because although old  (it even had  a coal cellar for the days before oil and gas), it was filled with what counted most – love. It started with two loving people who brought up 4 great kids, filled their home with music and books, family and friends and warm memories which have stayed with me throughout my life. It’s with a smile I recall that house, the shouts and laughter of children playing in the yard, the quiet talk of grown -ups sitting on the porch on a summer’s eve, the tinkle of ice in their drinks, I can smell the turkey my dad roasted for Thanksgiving dinner, and Mom’s pumpkin pie. They were a team, my parents, their love strong and steady for nearly 50 years before he passed away . My mom will be 91 in May. She is the last of her family – so many passed on. However, it is with ease that I can close my eyes and see them all in that house  –  a house of  family, friendship,  love and treasured memories.

I am working on a memoir/scrapbook, and I wrote this prose poem for it:

The Last Stop

this is the last stop  on our tour of  historic houses of Haskell, NJ in fact, this is the last tour ever as these 8 homes are slated for deconstruction to widen the road who could have  foreseen an interstate highway in 1930? some call it progress; I prefer preserving  –  these homes and our connection to a time now past. as you can see, this first home’s primary asset is its 19thcentury charm The wide, front porch brings to mind summer days and glasses of lemonade  enjoyed by neighbors stopping in to “sit a spell” and this large, red  kitchen is, most certainly, the heart  of the  home I can almost smell the bread and pies cooling on the counter , can’t you? off the kitchen here, is the only bathroom, but I’ve been told a family of six managed just fine, living here for nearly thirty years. can you imagine that? and take a look at this big backyard, I can hear the voices of children playing tag on a warm summer’s eve, listen closely, you can hear them can’t you?

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Daily Prompt: Focus On a Gift in a Child’s Hands

IMG_6717                                                                      

swept by surf upon the sand
now cradled in a child’s hands
there examined thoroughly
then put in place most carefully
into a box of weathered wood
amidst the treasures of childhood

Focus on: Reflections of a Bibliophile

I’ve mentioned my love of reading in earlier posts, and wanted to explore the topic a bit more..  I don’t remember when my fascination with books first began, but the earliest memory I have of a special book was the Christmas I received The Shirley Temple Treasury.  It was in 1961, according to the date inscribed on the title page in my childish handwriting.  This book contained four stories, including Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and the illustrations were accompanied by pictures from her movies of the same name. As you can see, in the picture above, I still have the book today  Somewhere along the way, the front cover was lost, but I fashioned a new one using the title page, my printer and clear contact paper.

As a child (and even today) I love series books.  You really fall into other worlds when you can read several books with the same characters. I read The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew,, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and being a science fiction lover,  I read my cousin’s copies of The Adventures of Tom Swift.

As an adult, Star Wars novels  form my largest collection,  followed by the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler and I’ve recently discovered the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber. If you are familiar with any of these characters, you can see how eclectic are my tastes, from a woman archaeologist,

My Star Wars Book
Collection

circa the early 1900s (Amelia Peabody) to the adventures of an ocean explorer, present day (Dirk Pitt) to a starship commander, future setting (Honor Harrington) and, of course, the ongoing story of the lightsaber wielding Jedi. I routinely scour Amazon for word of a new novel from any of these authors.

My favorite novel of all time is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell I  love strong female characters  and Scarlett O’Hara is certainly that.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book, but each time it’s like a visit with old friends.  Recently my husband gave me the ultimate treasure – a two-volume copy of the book, with page edged in gold leaf and an attached ribbon bookmark, gold embossed cover and illustrations. Needless to say, it has become one of my most prized possessions.  My second favorite novel is To Kill A.Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of the few school assigned novels I really enjoyed reading.  Scout Finch is every inch a strong female character despite her young age.  And my third favorite book is The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.  This one made me laugh out loud and cry real tears.

When eReaders first appeared on the market at first I wasn’t sure if I would like them.  To me much of the delight in a book is in its actual physical presence.  I like the way they look, the way they smell and the weight of them in my hand.  I also like to see them displayed on our bookshelves.  My husband and I have amassed quite a few books in our 36 years together.  We even bought a library wall complete with a moving ladder to reach the higher shelves.  But the lure of being able to grab a book out of thin air, seconds after I’ve discovered it, and start reading it immediately, is far too strong for a bibliophile like me to resist.  And they are a great alternative to lugging big, heavy books .  I recently downloaded a large photography guide, much easier to include with my camera equipment on my Kindle..  When travelling I can take a variety of books and magazines, all in one slim volume  (and yes, I have a copy of Gone With the Wind on my Kindle).  But I still buy real books.  Sometimes I just miss turning a page.  And a real book never requires recharging!

our library wall

As a parent and an educator, I know the how important an interest in reading is –  reading is the foundation of all learning.  How to interest you’re child in reading?   It’s really very easy.  First of all, give them books as early in their lives as you can.  There are plastic books that can be teethed on, sturdy, chunky cardboard books that can take a lot of punishment.  There are books for the tub, delightful pop-up books to catch a child’s eye, even books with handles for easy toting around.  Second, read to them . Read their books to them, read poetry to them (I love the poems of A.A, Milne).  Read Dr. Suess books to them – the rhythm and rhyme of these books are amazing and the words intriguing, so they easily capture a child’s interest.  Take them to story time at the local library.  The storytellers there are often quite good, and they use puppets and other props to entertain –and it’s free!   And equally important – let them see you reading.  When you make a trip to the library or bookstore, don’t forget to grab a book for yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you read  – cookbooks, magazines, the back of the cereal box,  just let them see you read.  Children imitate their parents and will soon want to figure out the process of reading for themselves.

My daughter-in-law picks me up once a week to spend the day with my grandchildren.  One day I hopped in the car with a book for each of them, and it quickly became a ritual.  When I get in the car now, I hear my little grandson ask, “Grams, do you have a book for me?”  Music to my ears.  If I had only one legacy to leave my grandchildren, it would be the gift of reading and a love of books. With a good foundation in reading, the world is, as the saying goes, their oyster.

I sometimes get frustrated because I fear there is not enough time  in one lifetime to read everything  I want to read. A while back, a friend of mine gave me a bookmark with a quote by Jorge Luis Borges.: I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.  I hope he’s right.  Maybe there will be enough time after all.