Today I received a copy of a poem written 70 years ago by my Grandmother. She was a remarkable woman for her kindness and quiet strength, her piano teaching talent and her poetry that she often included in our birthday cards. She led a very humble life. She survived breast cancer, raised four children and had a husband who was at worst abusive and at best completely self-centred. She took delight in her grandchildren and she made us all feel very special.
We would sit on her kitchen table watching her cook in the summer heat, with one arm twice the size of the other, swollen from the effects of breast cancer surgery, and never complain. When she baked a cake she used to pull a straw from her broom, wash it carefully and dry it and use it to test the cake’s doneness. Who needed toothpicks? She had the most devilish twinkle in her eye when she would make us milky ‘coffee’ when we were only children… she called it ‘rat poison’. We knew she was kidding. She loved peanut butter, possibly more than any other food in the world, except maybe Reese’s Cups.
In my young naivety, I never thought to ask if her life was at all happy, despite her very difficult marriage. I hope it was. She certainly gave us many happy memories. Reading her poem today reminded me how a person can create something beautiful from a situation that is anything but. When she signed the papers for my Dad to enter the Army Reserve so that he could leave school and leave an unhappy home, I’m sure it was a very difficult time.
I stood beside my cottage gate,
That sunny day we said good-bye;
And watched my son, in uniform
His fearless eyes, his head held high.
And now, although the hour is late,
And I beside my fireside sit;
I see again that boyish form,
Between the stitches as I knit.
Somehow, I feel it in my heart,
Tho many miles apart are we;
My son, while answering duty’s call,
Most oft times thinks of home and me.
It also reminds me that if we can’t always find the words to be a poet, we can look inside and find the strength to be the poem. My Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Carlisle Corsi was both.