Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Travel Poem For Mater

have you booked it
have you booked it
the daughter, she inquired
we've looked at endless tickets
and now I'm awfully tired

I'm a-coming
I'm a-coming
the mother she replied
I'm chartered on an air-balloon
at the very next high tide

are you flying
are you flying
the weary daughter whined
the tide's gone in and out again
but your balloon I cannot find

I'm a-flying
I'm a-flying
the mother's voice down floated
Thick clouds are 'tween the two of us!
I knew I should have boated

are you landed
are you landed
the impatient daughter roared
I made a thousand plans for us
and you're not here- I'm bored.

I'm a-landing
I'm a-landing
the descending mother called
you know I'm scared of heights-
and how I feared I would have falled!

are you out yet
are you out yet
the daughter stamped her foot
how long do you need to exit?
how much luggage did you put?

I'm a-trying
I'm a-trying
this vessel has no room
ah, here I am, dear daughter:
Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Piper's Son

One morning in recent weeks, my spoon collided with the bottom of the bowl, dashing against the base with a dreadful clatter.
My breakfast was dwindling, I'd nearly eaten the lot, and suddenly all I could think of was Tom, the piper's son. 
Who was Tom, that he merited a place in a nursery rhyme?
I hardly know. His biographical details are sparse.
All I was told as a youngster is that he stole a pig and ran away, as fast as he could- presumably after his own breakfast had been partaken of so he'd have ample energy to jog away from the angry farmer that wanted the pig back.
In any case- and this is the crux of the matter- he came back to me in a flash that morning: a cereal bowl in the house of my youth bore a bright and colourful picture of Tom running away, running with a very startled and very pink, clean pig under his arm. Clean as a whistle that pig was, for what it's worth, and too clean if you ask me.
One had to empty the bowl of all food before discovering Tom's rascally image underneath.
The scene never altered.
Tom was always running, no matter how slowly one trudged through the contents of the bowl or how quickly they were devoured.
The farmer never caught the boy, the boy never dropped the pig, the pig never looked less than flabbergasted, and nobody gave up their endeavours.
Frozen in time, they were, and it was that flash of a picture that I'd remembered so many years later.
The trouble was, it wasn't actually my scene to recall.
It wasn't my cereal bowl.
It was my brother's.
Did I have a bowl of my own, I asked Mater then, with perhaps a corresponding girlish nursery rhyme?
I imagined Little Bo Peep would have been appropriate. It was as good a guess as any.
Mater didn't have any memory of such a thing, not of Bo Peep, not of my brother's dish.
I suppose the logical conclusion is that I spent more time staring into my brother's breakfast bowl than I did my own. Maybe his food was more interesting to my tender eyes, maybe I was drawn to the running aspect. I had always loved to run like a mad thing, and maybe I saw myself at the bottom of that bowl in a perpetual game of you-can't-catch-me.
The only thing left to do, then, was to ask my brother.
He'd know, wouldn't he? If I'd gazed into his bowl so as to have Tom and a pig and a farmer emblazoned in my mental archives, it stood to reason my brother would have looked into mine, and he'd be able to say accurately whether it was Little Miss Muffet or Bo Peep or whichever dainty female was prettily portrayed.
He didn't.
He drew a blank entirely, and offered no wisdom on the subject of my mysterious breakfast bowl.
More crucially, and to my utter dismay, he didn't remember his own bowl.
Not a hint, not a trace of Tom the piper's son remained in my brother's memory. I'm sure Tom was there, though all evidence has been lost to time.
My brother must have scraped too hard with his spoon.
At least I've got something to remember our long-ago breakfasts by, even if it wasn't my portion that I recall, and even if I'm the only one to recall it.
And one of these days, I'm hoping, my brother's spoon will bash against the bottom of a bowl and suddenly he'll be himself struck with a painted image, a faint memory, this time of some little girl- ah, yes.
Some stubborn little girl in a sing-song nursery rhyme that insisted, boldly, on staring into the bowl next to hers.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan
Sat eating her porridge
Looking into her brother's bowl;
She was so busy staring
To see how HE was faring
She might well have
Been eating some coal.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan
Sat eating her porridge
Didn't look at what she was doing;
Brother's bowl had her mesmerized,
And she wouldn't have realized
If it had been a stone
She was chewing.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan
Sat eating her porridge
Watching Brother's breakfast with awe;
At her own- not a chance
That she'd give it a glance.
So it might have been
Fish tails, or straw.

Of course, it was porridge,
Not anything else,
But it might have been all of those things,
Along with a dash
Of fencepost and mash,
And a sprinkling of
Dried beetle wings.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Helping Out

The local Senior Center was hosting its sixth anniversary party recently, and close to eighty people were expected to attend and dine at the event.
I donned apron, and a fabulous hair net, and with others I got to work setting up for the luncheon. 
Soon, in the midst of the initial chaos, somebody grey-haired popped their head around the corner of the kitchen.
"Can I help with anything?"
We all said no immediately; we said that it was under control. It wasn't the whole truth, but there was such a clatter and cacophony in the air that we had some difficulty hearing one another speak, and clarity of tasks hadn't quite set in yet- it seemed likely that adding another pair of hands, though willing, to the mix might befuddle us further.
Thus we declined the insistent offer of assistance, certain we'd get everything straightened very soon.
Again, she offered. Anything she could do- putting silverware or napkins on the tables, making a pot of coffee- all we had to do was let her know, and she'd do it.
Once again we had to turn her down on the grounds that it was all arranged and running like clockwork, and all she had to do was sit and enjoy herself.
"All right," she said, her tone uncertain, her voice full of doubt, raising an eyebrow and darting a quick and almost suspicious glance of examination around the kitchen.
The glance said that somewhere in some corner of the kitchen, she had to be needed- something always needed folding or wiping or planning.
Away she went, anyhow, with a shrug, off to be part of the party, having genuinely tried to be involved in its structure.
Who among us would have dared to accept her gracious offer, and drop ourselves in a situation where we had to give duty orders, however polite, to this woman?
Not I, in any case.
I say that based on two rather significant points:

She flew airplanes in World War II.
She shared her 102nd birthday cake with all of us workers.

I positively wouldn't like to be the one to tell such a person what to do. 
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