The other day, after digging through some old papers, I came across some assignments from a poetry class that I took in college. Today, I found a poem in which I had to take a conversation and turn it into a poem. This assignment did bring tears to my eyes because I used my mom as my subject. Until today, I had forgotten about that conversation about her life on the ranch with her family.
In February 1996, I visited with my mom and shared the information about my assignment. Since I loved her childhood stories, I nudged our conversation in that direction as I took notes and listened to each wonderful detail.
Mom: When I was growing up, life was easier, slower. Life was simple. Families were closer. We always had supper together. Enjoyed each others company, and we talked about our day.
After supper, we would rid up the table, and mom would pop popcorn or bring out butter cookies from the Jewel T man, and then we would play games. The evenings always lasted long into the night.
Dad would say, “Who wants to play Chinese checkers?” And we would run to grab the game and quickly clear the table. We enjoyed being together. I miss the folks.
Me: Tell me about your Saturdays.
Mom: On Saturdays, the folks always went to town to shop and visit. Men would sit on the main street and call to one another. The woman shopped and visited. The kids ran off and played.
Sometimes I stayed home and played with my friend Tommy. Sometimes we played rodeo with the calves. We would bring calves in the corral and ride them. Tommy would announce, “out of the chute rides the daring Dottie Allen on her wild bull.” Pretty soon the calves were too tame, so we would have to twist their tails to make them buck. We always cleaned the corral before the folks got home, so they wouldn’t know what was going on. Except your grandpa found out because my uncle told him about our “rodeos.” And I kinda gave it away because when dad told me to round up the milk cows at night, I could ride a cow out and get them, instead of saddling a horse. It was less trouble.
Me: Was grandpa mad?
Mom: No, not really. He got after me and told me I shouldn’t do it because Tommy and I could get hurt. But he always tried to hide a smile when I rode a cow to gather the cows at night.
Did I ever tell about the time me and Tommy tried to can peaches? One time when the folks went to town, me and Tommy tried to can peaches. We picked peaches from my uncle’s orchard. We tried cooking and canning, but it didn’t turn out, so we buried the pan and peaches under the cobblestones along the walkway.
Me: What happened when your parents found out?
Mom: Tommy’s mom couldn’t understand what happened to all the sugar, and she wondered what happened to her pan.
Here is a copy of my poem that I wrote for my class.
Life was Simple
We sat together in her cozy home-
with its overstuffed chairs.
Light from the large window
danced across the room.
It was comfortable and pleasing-
like our relationship.
My mother and I visited-
and talked about her life
when she was a child-growing up.
She settled in among the cushions-
of her favorite chair.
As she rested her head, she closed her eyes.
When I was growing up,
life was easier, slower-
way back then.
People weren’t in hurry.
Life was simple.
Families were closer.
We always ate supper together.
Enjoyed the company-
talked about our day.
After supper, we rid up the table-
mom would pop popcorn
and bring out the butter cookies-
the ones from the Jewel-T man.
Then we would play games.
Dad would say-
“Who wants to play Chinese checkers?”
We would run and grab the game-
quickly clean off the the kitchen table.
The evening lasted long into the night.
We enjoyed being together.
I miss the folks…
Sadness filled my heart.
I missed them too.
Favorite memories of my grandparents-
tugged at my heart.
While mom rested,
I noticed her white hair-
and wondered when did mom grew old.
I also longed for days of fun-
when life was simple,
and families were close.
Tell me again about your Saturdays.
She smiled and opened her eyes.
With relief, I noticed
her brown eyes-
were still the same-
warm, caring – comfortable.
On Saturdays, the folks always went to town
to shop and visit.
Men would sit on the main street-
and call to one another.
The woman shopped and visited.
The children ran off and played.
Sometimes I stayed home-
with my friend, Tommy.
We played rodeo with calves.
In the corral, Tommy would announce,
“Out of the chute, rides daring Dottie
on her wild bull!”
For awhile the calves would buck,
but soon they were too tame.
We would have to twist their tails-
to make them buck again.
Mom sighed as she remembered her yesterdays.
Her smile spread and touched her eyes.
We always cleaned the corral-
and took the calves to the pasture-
before the folks got home.
We didn’t want them to find out.
Except your grandpa learned about our rodeos-
my uncle caught us one day.
Grandpa knew something was up.
I could round up-
the old milk cows at night
and ride on the back of a cow
instead of saddling up a horse-
too much trouble.
I wondered about her life-
the childish adventures of my mother.
Her western tales of ranch life,
of friends and family.
I didn’t want the stories to end.
Was grandpa mad?
With a gleam in her eye, mama continued.
No, not really.
He scolded and worried.
But grandpa always tried
to hide a smile-
when I brought the cows in at night.
Her stories lasted late into the night.
New images of an adventurous,
fun-loving girl filled my thoughts.
I loved her tales.
Her stories mad me laugh-
and cry sometimes – just a little.
Me and Tommy were always up to something.
We used our imagination – played all the time.
I miss those days.
Life was simple.
Did I ever tell you
about the time we canned peaches….