Friday, July 10, 2020

"Long Time a Child" by Hartley Coleridge

If you were to ask me to name the one poem with which I identify the most, it would be this one. And it has been, for many, many years. Hartley was Samuel Taylor Coleridge eldest son, so he had much to live up to! For me, with this one alone, he scored his place as a poet. The breaks are mine. The poem has long been presented as one verse. I have taken the liberty to do this for the sake of clarity. It is a beautiful, though sad, sentiment expressed with great skill.

LONG TIME A CHILD by Hartley Coleridge

Long time a child, and still a child, when years
had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
a thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
no hope I needed, and I knew no fears.

But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
the vanguard of my age, with all arrears
of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey.

For I have lost the race I never ran:
a rathe December blights my lagging May;
and still I am a child, tho’ I be old.
Time is my debtor for my years untold.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's 91st birthday. I remember her voice very well, singing and playing the piano, which still stands in my living room/dining area. It was purchased in 1964 and has been with me since she passed in 1984 at the age of 55. I am now 10 years older than she was at the time. So, it's not easy to think of her as old.

She was ill for much of my childhood, often spending 6 months of the year, or more, hospitalized for all forms of digestive issues and cancers. Growing up was like an emotional yo-yo, which of course I didn't understand at the time.

She and my Dad met in February 1947, when he was just 17 and working at the Kingsway theater as an usher.

She had just graduated James Madison, the same school I would attend years later. She was taking voice lessons and auditioning for the chorus of Broadway shows, planning on a career in the theater.

My Dad, a year and a half younger, was still in Maritime High School aboard the SS John Brown, a Liberty Ship used by the Maritime Union to train Merchant Mariners. He was living in Manhattan at the time. My Grandmother had been forced to move from the house on 32nd off Kings Hwy after my Grandfather died. But, for whatever reason, he was still working in Brooklyn on Kings Hwy.  (The Brown currently resides in Baltimore, just near the submarine Torsk,  aboard which he also served in the Naval Reserve out of New London, Connectticutt.)

The whole courtship thing came to a head when my Mom was about to take a job in the chorus of "Oklahoma" in a road company, which would keep her away for months at a time.  Similarly, Dad was about to sign on as an Ordinary Seaman and ship out to ports unknown for months at a time. So they had a lot in common.... they were both leaving to begin their own lives.

But their hearts held sway, and love, not one to be ignored, won out. They were married in September of 1950 and together until her death 33 and a half years later in 1984.

Her last few years were spent in bed writing stories about her illness and also her childhood. Since I'd lived through the illnesses my favorite stories were her childhood ones. I hadn't been there at the time they occurred, so her stories were a window into another time, in the same neighborhood, with some of the same characters I was growing up with.  One of my favorites was the one about the "I cash clothes man", a few of whom still roamed the streets when I was about 4 or 5 years old.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you and the phone calls we shared, with me calling from foreign ports whenever I could. And you, always there on the other end.

Note: Photo cropped from my Mom's girlhood album. She is 13 years old and seated    on the roof of 3619 Bedford Avenue.