Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Big Blue Poem Book



When my sister and I were little, my mother read to us every night from a big blue poem book. 

It was actually called Favorite Poems: Old & New, edited by Helen Ferris. But to us it was filled with magical stories told in the beautiful, musical language of poetry. 

We loved the poem about the Plumpuppets by Christopher Morley, the fairies who hovered and plumped up our pillows while we slept. 

We loved the adventures of Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Field, as they sailed off at night in their wooden shoe. 

And we loved the story of Peace and Mercy and Jonathan and Patience (very small), as they celebrated the First Thanksgiving of All, told in the wonderful words of Nancy Byrd Turner.


We had so many favorites that we’d beg my mother to read us just one more poem before we went to bed. 

Learning to love poetry might have had something to do with the fact that my mother is an elegant storyteller, lending her own unique expression and drama to them. 

These poems are forever a part of my life. 

When my sister got married, she gave me a gift of a keepsake photo collage of us as little girls, along with snippets of these favorite poems framed with the photos. 

Before my nephew Nathan was born, I bought my sister a copy of the poem book, now with a red cover, and hoped that my niece and nephew would love them as much as we did. 

But I don’t think they do.


I read Devon the Plumpuppets one night when she was staying at my house. I asked her if she wanted me to read it to her and she said politely, “If you want to.” 

She nicely listened but much prefers for me to read the mysteries in the Nancy Drew Notebooks to her before she goes to sleep. 

I have to realize that not all traditions get handed down. 

Not everything will be loved like I love it. 

The next generation gets to pick and choose their favorite memories and fond attachments to take with them from their childhood into adulthood. 

But maybe what’s important is giving them a lovely medley, a varied assortment, even a sometimes motley collection of rituals and memories and traditions to choose from.


My nephew now spends Thanksgiving at a hunting camp with his dad in Georgia. 

He thinks sleeping in a trailer and stalking deer is the most fun he’ll have all year. 

Devon spends Thanksgiving with us girls (and my dad) in St. Augustine. She says it has her most favorite shops of anywhere. 

Which is high praise indeed, since the only place she likes to shop in Orlando is the grocery store Publix, because she gets a free chocolate chip cookie.


So this Thanksgiving, I carry on my own tradition. 

I set out my three special candles – two pilgrims and an Indian girl, with the wick as the feather in her headband. 

My mother had these same decorations when I was little, but after moving several times, they disappeared. I was delighted when I found replicas of them in a vintage store. 

I stand them on my table and I open the big blue poem book. 

I read about Peace and Mercy and Jonathan, and Patience (very small), as they give thanks on their first Thanksgiving of all. 

And I give thanks. For all in my family who came before me to help make my holiday rituals my best-loved memories. 

And I’m so very grateful to God for the chance to make new traditions with those I dearly love who have arrived to walk this life alongside me.


First Thanksgiving of All by Nancy Byrd Turner

Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood by the table giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.

There was very little for them to eat,
Nothing special and nothing sweet;
Only bread and a little broth,
And a bit of fruit (and no tablecloth);
But Peace and Mercy and Jonathan
And Patience, in a row,
Stood up and asked a blessing on
Thanksgiving, long ago.

Thankful they were that their ship had come
Safely across the sea;
Thankful they were for hearth and home,
And kin and company;
They were glad of broth to go with their bread,
Glad their apples were round and red,
Glad of mayflowers they would bring
Out of the woods again next spring

So Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood up and gratefully gave thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.

8 comments:

  1. So I called Devon over to look at your blog. She says yes, those are the candles she plays with. I was in the middle of reading the poem at the end of the blog. When the toy phone that she had in her hand rang. She said, " One moment, I have to take this call." ! Ah yes, it's a new generation. D.D.

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    1. Of course! Phone calls are always more important than poetry . . . especially pretend ones on a toy phone! Love that Devon!

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  2. So beautiful. Nostalgic. And sweet.

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  3. I so admire the way you value family and tradition, and still make room for new traditions to grow. That is so rare and such an amazing quality.
    Christy

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  4. I bet you have some poetry of your own creation to read to Andrew to make his memories wonderful!

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  5. Your _Big Blue Poem Book_ reminds me of my mother's _Family Book of Best Loved Poems_. It had been hers as a girl, and she gave it to me when I was in elementary school. I spent hours reading it alone in my room. Many poems I read so many times that I memorized them without trying. I think just reading poems and picking our favorites is how we come to cherish them. There is something about studying them as a requirement in school that takes all the joy out of them.
    I enjoy reading your blog--and seeing pictures, as well!

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    1. Hi Karen,
      Thank you so much for reading! How wonderful that your poetry book has been passed down in your family, too -- what a treasure that is. I love what you said about reading our favorite poems is how we come to cherish them!

      Valerie

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