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?