Childhood loves: memoir poem

If there were a portal
from Now to Then
and I passed through
where would I find myself
what would I do

what would I see
of my childhood me

raggedy white blanket
satin trim pulling loose
rub rub rubbing
my silky string
between my fingers
and over my nose
as I suck my thumb

Pa-Pa pumping a spinning top
reds pinks blues swirling
like rainbow smoke
—it’s playing music! Like an organ
—what is that song what is that song

I can play Grandma’s organ
shiny pretty red-brown wood
with curved legs
she presses my fingers on the white keys
— 5653 5653
that is Silent Night
oh and I am supposed to be holding
the white C button down

I can drive my little red car
along the sidewalks
in front of the shops
by pumping pedals
while Granddaddy watches
from the bench

sometimes he calls me Duck or Pig

I do not know why

but it is good

Daddy’s buying a house
I do not like the way it smells
like old old coffee

except that a neighbor kid shows me
that there’s a door in the side
of the cement back steps
when we open it
an even older smell comes out
past dangling cobwebs
on strange cool air
—there’s a game under here, in a box
soft with forgottenness for so long
pictures of ghosts mildewing on the top

a roly-poly scurries away in the dust

there’s a lot of kids to play with
and we run
and run and run and run
around my new backyard

—oh no, Daddy’s going to be mad
we snapped his little tree
—here, help me hold these two parts together
while we pray for God to glue them back

it didn’t work

but it’s not so bad

except for the little tree

Mama’s friends bring their skinny black dog
named Thing
yeah I know Thing on The Addams Family
it’s just a hand in a box

Thing digs a hole in the backyard
my sister and I make it bigger
and bigger and bigger
it’s a giant crater
we pull out a giant smooth white rock
maybe a dinosaur’s egg

I smell the clay, orange, gray
feel its slickness between my fingers
while we dig to the other side of the world
China

Ding-dong, Avon calling
look at all these tiny white tubes of lipsticks
they smell so clean
—can you believe there’s perfume
in this bottle made like a tree
—see when you take off the green top
and push the bluebird’s tail
it sprays

Bird of paradise bird of paradise
my own made-up song
I sing it in the tub
while the white hunk of Ivory soap
floats in the cloudy water

At Grandma’s house in the summertime
I find a stack of old records
I put them on the record player
while I dig through a tall wicker basket
of dresses
fancy ones
the pink one is satin covered with tulle
but the blue one is my favorite
with the rows and rows of lace on the skirt
reaching almost to the floor
when I put it on

I’m a princess

singing

I’ll buy you a diamond ring, my friend
if it makes you feel all right
I’ll get you anything my friend
if it makes you feel all right
‘Cause I don’t care too
much for money
Money can’t buy me love

and when I am tired of that
and when the long day is done
I’ll sit by Grandma here in the floor
where she spreads the newspaper open
on the braided rug
I’ll read the funnies
or the The Mini Page
or maybe even Reader’s Digest

Granddaddy comes over
freshly-shaved, in his pajamas
for me to hug his neck
and give him a kiss
on his smooth Old Spice cheek

while outside in summer dusk
cicadas sing
and sing and sing, so loud
and never stop

now I lay me down to sleep
my childhood loves to always keep

Magic find on Etsy: Vintage Avon spray bottle with Her Prettiness Enchanted Cologne Mist.
Not so sure how enchanting the scent would be after all this time…
that this still exists, however, is surely evidence of one powerful spell.

*******

Thanks to Ruth Ayres on SOS: Magic in a Blog for the invitation to return to childhood loves, to linger there for a while, and to bring something back.

Thanks also to the Poetry Friday-ers and to Mary Lee for hosting this week’s Roundup.

Oh yeah and thanks to The Beatles for the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” — and all the others.

32 thoughts on “Childhood loves: memoir poem

    • Thing was probably part Lab; I recall her goofy hyperness. My dad was none too happy about that hole. Which became a crater. He eventually put in a pool there. -Thanks, Thing, for getting our pool started! Never thought of it that way before.

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  1. So many sensory memories! I am amazed at how similar our childhood loves were. Oh, those Avon lipsticks I’d forgotten about. I loved makeup and especially the variety packs of eyeshadow. I have been wrestling with this writing prompt. I hope a memoir poem is stirring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once I go back and submerge a while, many little things like those TINY lipstick samples rise to the surface. A poem just seemed the natural and simple way to communicate these simple loves. Will be interested to see what rises for you…and how your Muse spills it onto the page.

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  2. A veritable cornucopia of childhood memories in this memoir poem Fran. They spiral through your childhood like essential gatherings.Your poem is rich in imagery that transports the reader into the once was world. I love the specificity of your reclaimed memories. In the memoir writing of others we are treated to glimpses of our own journey. I thank you for taking me down this path.

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    • These remembrances of childhood still float through my mind at various moments. A few I’ve written of before, but this is the first time I tried stringing them together in any kind of sequence. It really is a wonder to step into another memory and see bits of your own. Thank you for these words, Alan.

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  3. Fran, I, too, was impressed with your stream of consciousness memoir poem. It was filled with familiar thoughts that were hidden, such as the Avon lady. I have not thought of this for years but I always go back in time to my grandmother’s garden and the fond memories of summers with her. Your last lines, “now I lay me down to sleep
    my childhood loves to always keep”
    connect childhood with evening prayer and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My grandmother taught me that prayer and I wanted to close the poem with sleeping (but not with the Lord taking my soul!). I’ve written about a few of those memories before but this is the first time I tried to string them together. It was great fun to write. I am enjoying hearing of how it sparks others’ memory. Most of all, I’m grateful to be capturing and saving these recollected bits. I so appreciate your thoughts in response, Carol.

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  4. I too connected with so many of those memories, sometimes makes me sad that the grand will not have the joy of newspaper comics. I also read that Reader’s Digest & loved the Avon Lady, Fran. You made me smile all the way through your poem & its savoring of “my childhood loves to always keep”. Lovely!

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    • Weren’t the comics so much fun, Linda? Especially in the Sunday paper (oooo, in COLOR). I used to press Silly Putty on them and peel it up to see the image in reverse – such fun to stretch the image in hilarious ways. Yes – sad that these generations won’t know the simple joy of many of these things. So happy it brought you a smile – thanks for letting me know!

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    • Janice, that is absolutely true – if I go back and stay awhile, I can remember so many details. It’s astonishing. In the case of my grandmother’s beautiful chord organ – it helps that I have it now. I was maybe four when she taught me how to play Silent Night, her favorite Christmas song. She was born the day after Christmas and died the day before Christmas Eve at almost 91. It’s her season. I asked for Silent Night to be played at her funeral. Thank you so much for reading ❤️

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  5. Love the long string of remembering – connects so dearly to the long ago. I especially loved the lines:

    Sometimes he calls me Duck or Pig,
    I do not know why, but it is good

    and

    —here, help me hold these two parts together
    while we pray for God to glue them back
    it didn’t work
    but it’s not so bad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fran,
    I wish I knew how you made this poem. I’m intrigued by your process and enamored by your craft. Of course, I was struck by the smells, but the image that I think you nailed is the “hunk” of Ivory soap! I know just what you mean. Your joy is palpable, which might be my favorite thing about reading your writing.
    xo,
    ruth

    Liked by 1 person

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