At 21, my days were filled with Big Bird and diapers,
And All My Children;
Studying consisted of a minute scrutiny of fingers, toes and chubby cheeks.
Pouring over books was a stolen delight after the
Laundry was loaded and the
Kitchen was cleaned and
Freshly bathed babies were sleeping silently curled in their cribs–
I turned off the tube and sat with steaming orange pekoe
Sticking my nose in another world for hours.
My mind jaunting between
London and Dragheda–
At King’s Cross, I tried to discern how I would know the difference between
A Frenchman and a Belgian while thoughts of
Richard Chamberlain danced through my head in Australia
To the tune of the ABC’s; it was never far away!
“Mommy, play a game with me” ended with
Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders.
Spring days were spent poking holes in the yard so that
Little fingers could put seeds to bed;
Summer found us lying on the grass willing for them to wake up.
At last! A bean-leaf uncurls in slow motion–
It was a long hour, but well worth the child’s expression.
The tomatoes swelled and my belly swelled and I wondered
Which would be harvested first– the tomatoes won,
But I had the last laugh as small hands helped me place them
In glass jars for the winter.
Before long it was time to reap the fruits of my own labor;
A Robin entered the nest to bring my little flock to
Three pairs of eyes that watched my every move and
Called out my name—
Their adoration fed my ego.
Seeking a larger audience, I performed in
Oklahoma while listening to
Voices in the Attic singing
A Christmas Carol as
The Miracle Worker played for me
The Sound of Music.
Confidence was sown in applause
And a thirst for more germinated.
It was then that I decided to expand my mind and my debt.
My days became filled with Big Macs and deadlines,
And All My Children were wondering when Mom would be back (5 now);
Studying became a minute scrutiny of facts, tables and chubby Chaucer.
Pouring over books lost its delight in the quest for a better me;
Laundry lying around and the
Kitchen in chaos and not always knowing if the
Babies were sleeping soundly on the sitter’s sofa–
I turned on the tube and sat with cold coffee
Fixing their focus on another world for hours.
Too much of my time spent jaunting between
Libraries and Kinkos–
I learned the difference between France and Belgium–
But there was no fun in that.
I even went to King’s Cross, but didn’t see anyone familiar.
Thoughts of Richard Nixon, Richard Wright and Richard III
Clashed in my head;
ABC’s became IBM’s;
“Mommy, play a game with me” ended with making sure
Jumanji was re-wound first.
Spring nights spent poking keys long after
Little fingers and toes were washed and put to bed;
Lying three hours wishing I never had to get up.
Would love to watch the bean-leaves uncurl,
But I don’t have the hour–
Is their expression worth it?
In the background the T.V. chants the question
“Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?”
And I long to sit down and help my kids find the answer,
But as I work, the chant runs through my mind
Changing the words to form the question
“What in the world is the Whitman Tradition?”
I’m afraid to look at the answer
While Leaves of Grass blow through my mind
Painfully telling me things I already knew before I recognized that I knew them.
I’ve graduated from living Whitman to learning Whitman.
The parchment shows I’ve done my job well, but
I’ve spent fourteen years with two sets of kids–
One in the garden,
One in the library;
Who got the better me?