Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Childhood Dreams

Butterfly Wings

Emerging from my cocoon
last night before I slept,
my eyes devour treasure
hidden in cards and notes
scattered among my
now ancient relics

As I read them slowly
a door finally cracks open
to reality larger than life,
despite my deep fear
of failure and a similar yet
heavier fear of success

This morning I wake to
flaws and old age staring
back at me from my mirror,
daring me to forego
daily beautifying rituals
meant to atone for my faults

My heart skips a beat —
not because of this poignant
reflection but because I
finally recognize a glimmer
of butterfly wings
springing from my back

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 1940s and 50s. During and after World War II, severity was called for. This meant daily care of Victory Gardens. Mending and passing along used clothes and shoes. Not wasting anything. And, in my case, full attention to the military-like heaviness of my clergy father’s rules for good girls.

As a clergyman, Dad chose not to be a soldier in Uncle Sam’s army. He believed he was in the only army that mattered — God’s army. Joining Uncle Sam’s army was like deserting God’s army.

I wasn’t the only World War II baby born into a culture of strict rations and homegrown Victory Gardens. Food was often hard to come by. Gardens had to be plowed, planted and weeded. And children, like gardens, also had to be plowed and weeded.

The upshot was simple. No vanity, no wasting time, no over-indulgence. Just noses stuck to the grindstone of everyday recovery from the horrors of World War II. Like other children born into this era, I learned to keep my nose to the grindstone, think of myself as part of a small army of obedient girls and boys, and forget about the fancy stuff our family could never afford.

It made for outstanding work habits. It didn’t make for easy enjoyment of parties or silliness in the workplace. Even worse, it took away the joy of being a young mother.

So there I was yesterday evening, reading cards and notes I’ve kept over the years. Finally acknowledging that I did something beautiful and did, indeed, have great fun from time to time–despite the heaviness of my work ethic.

In fact, I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my life. Thanks to friends and family members who keep showing me how it’s done.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2021
Photo found at commons.wikipedia.com

Tell me tell me | Emily Brontë

Here’s a Monday poem from our other Emily. My comments follow.

Tell me tell me

Tell me tell me smiling child
What the past is like to thee?
An Autumn evening soft and mild
With a wind that sighs mournfully

Tell me what is the present hour?
A green and flowery spray
Where a young bird sits gathering its power
To mount and fly away

And what is the future happy one?
A sea beneath a cloudless sun
A mighty glorious dazzling sea
Stretching into infinity

From selected poems of Emily Brontë, p. 28
Published in Everyman’s Library by Alfred A. Knopf, 1996
© 1996 by David Campbell Publishers Ltd., sixth printing

In this little poem, Emily Brontë asks and answers three questions, each from her childhood point of view. Emily was the 5th of 6 children. She was 3 years old when her mother died of cancer. I don’t know what age she had in mind when she wrote the poem.

The first stanza is about her past. I’m surprised she’s smiling. Yes, the answer points to a lovely ending to a beautiful Autumn day. At the same time, she hears the sound of mourning, already in the air. Winter is coming.

The second stanza is about the present (her childhood present). I’m not sure whether the ‘spray’ is water, or the combined effect of leaves and flowers shooting up from the ground. Perhaps she’s in a meadow or beside the sea (which appears in the final stanza). In either case, a young bird is getting ready to leave the nest and fly away. No hint of mourning in the air.

The third stanza is about the future. By now (in the poem), the child is happy. No hints of mourning, regrets, or the agonies of adult life. And yet this seems the most painful stanza of all despite its happy ending. Perhaps it’s a small window into the hoped-for trajectory of Emily Brontë’s life, and a cautionary note?

I identify with this childhood dream. Once I flew the nest, I believed all would be well. Even the ‘small’ bumps in the road would, in the end, seem like nothing. Little did I know….

And yet this poem isn’t morose. It invites me to remember and hold close my childhood dreams. Not all will come true. Yet there’s that “mighty glorious dazzling sea stretching into infinity.” Who knows what yet will be? In life or in death.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 January 2020
Photo found at wickipedia.org

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