The Gift of Poetry

To Conrad  Happy Birthday 7-Year Old! (2015)

My mama told me that memories are precious gifts

That live in your heart. Memories are what last.

I hope your hands remember my hand in yours,

As we strolled along the sidewalks of Germantown,

On the way to the playground,

On the way to Starbucks and Giant,

The warmth of the sunshine; the comfort of familiar places.

I hope your ears remember listening

To Mom-Mom reading books and books and books

To you and your brothers, cuddled together

On the sofa, turning pages, asking questions.

I hope your nose remembers the sweet aroma

Of “S” cookies and double chocolate bars,

Of pies, and Pop-Pop’s pancakes.

Kitchen scents, fragrant and tempting.

I hope your tongue remembers your first taste

Of orange sherbet, which you liked

And lemon meringue pie, which you didn’t.

I hope your eyes remember

The faces, the smiles, the gazes of the ones

Who love you.

If, by chance, you forget,

This poem may help you remember

All of it.


Inspired by a poem I had read in The New Yorker just after my first grandchild was born, I decided that I would write him a poem for each of his birthdays. The poem, along with a photo of the two of us taken as we played, would become a sort of history of the time we spent together during the year. When Collin turned one, my daughter pasted the poem and the photo into a scrapbook, and a tradition was born.

I now have eight grandchildren, and I write a poem for each of them to celebrate their birthdays every year. The birthdays come fast but poems—not so fast. I reread what I’ve written for them and try to capture who they are at that moment in time. The process is slow but not a chore. It’s fun to look through my calendar and recall our special “dates” together. The younger children have sleepovers and movies; the older ones trips to the opera or to a play or museum.

They all look forward to hearing their poem read aloud on their birthdays. Now, I am neither John Keats nor Mary Oliver. I am a grandmother who writes. And, apparently, that’s good enough for them.

On my 70th birthday all of my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren wrote me poems. No gift could possibly have been better than that! Whenever I feel low or unappreciated in the wide world, I remember those poems and re-read them. Am I lucky or what?

7 thoughts on “The Gift of Poetry

  1. Words cannot express — beautiful in each and every way and touched my heart deeply. I will tell you it matters. I told each grandchild in my mom’s eulogy what they meant to her. I will never forget their faces. Thank you for sharing this tradition. I hope to carry it on some day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t tell you how much your responses mean to me. Always thoughtful, they give me food for thought. These poems mean a lot to me and my kids but I hesitated sharing any to a wider audience. I’m glad I did.


  2. Diane, this is an absolutely lovely poem! I love the way the senses are weaved throughout the memories. I too would like to tinker with a poem like this. I’m already thinking of the perfect person and reason. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When you first told me about your tradition I was blown away – how lovely to give the gift of poetry to all your grandchildren. And not just any poem – a poem created just for them to help them remember those special times! I am glad you shared this with the TWT audience. It tells us a lot about who you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful tradition and a labor of love! And what a wonderful family you have to turn it around and write poems for you! Your poem for Conrad captured how the sense are tuned into memory. I found myself remembering the smells, sights, and tastes of my childhood.


  5. Beautiful poem! I know about your tradition. It is much more precious than anything store-bought and will withstand the mar h of time. These treasures will be saved by your hrandchildren for a long, long time. Perhaps a few of them may even perpetuate this traditiin with their children or grandchildren. The gift of writing!


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