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I write because I remember. And I treasure our memories.

January 22, 2012

Over the Christmas break I saw the movie, The War Horse, with my Grandma and then my Granny went to go see it as well.

Upon returning, my Granny was thrilled and said, “I felt like I was really there. With the surround sound I was ducking every time I heard a gun go off!” Seeing the movie brought about a serge of poems in her mind.

My Granny’s brain is like a treasure chest of meandering thoughts, facts, poems, ideas, and stories. Somehow she remembers them all and saves them for just the right time when she might need them.

Watching the movie had triggered her memory of poems. I was sitting at the computer and she started spatting off lines to an old poem she once taught to her English class, “The General came in a new tin hat…”

I started typing it in the google search and found it right away. Before she could finish saying the second line I read it along with her. She was so amazed! She then, as she always does, demanded (but really was just asking) me to read the poem.

I began to read aloud… about half way through the first stanza I remembered that my Granny doesn’t just play with poetry, she lives and breathes it. After all, she taught it for many years and she considers herself to be a poet of sorts. I grew up with her teaching me how to read poetry with enthusiasm. I’m not sure that I learned very well. But, it was always fun to have her teach us a thing or two about reciting poetry.

So, I read the poem, forgetting to be enthusiastic. She went along with me by memory… Then I said, “Till the Sergeant whispered, “Third-line trench!”” Not thinking about how to read poetry, I just read it normally. Then I heard my Granny shuffle and get ready for the next line and she whispered, “Third-line trench!”

I laughed out loud realizing that she was making a point– the line was to be whispered– to be kept in tact for its original meaning and impact. How disgraceful of me to not whisper! But really~ it is necessary for this poem when being read aloud!

She continued citing the poem from memory, adding emphasis and whispering when called to do so.

I’m not sure I have a point to this story– except that reciting poetry with my Granny has always been something that is like a precious treasure. You never know when she will open up that treasure chest of hers and pull out some poem she has hidden away~ I’m not sure every grandchild can say that they spent time reciting poetry and catching fish with their Granny. I’m fortunate enough to have a Granny who has taught me so much about life– the depths of life, the joys, the sorrows, and the humor of life.

If for anything, I write because I remember. And, I treasure our memories.

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Here’s the whole poem for reference (it’s actually pretty funny):

Pershing at the Front

    by Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)

The General came in a new tin hat

To the shell-torn front where the war was at;

With a faithful Aide at his good right hand

He made his way toward No Man’s Land,

And a tough Top Sergeant there they found,

And a Captain, too, to show them round.

Threading the ditch, their heads bent low,

Toward the lines of the watchful foe

They came through the murk and the powder stench

Till the Sergeant whispered, “Third-line trench!”

And the Captain whispered, “Third-line trench!”

And the Aide repeated, “Third-line trench!”

And Pershing answered- not in French-

“Yes, I see it. Third-line trench.”

Again they marched with wary tread,

Following on where the Sergeant led

Through the wet and the muck as well,

Till they came to another parallel.

They halted there in the mud and drench,

And the Sergeant whispered, “Second-line trench!”

And the Captain whispered, “Second-line trench!”

And the Aide repeated, “Second-line trench!”

And Pershing nodded: “Second-line trench!”

Yet on they went through mire like pitch

Till they came to a fine and spacious ditch

Well camouflaged from planes and Zeps

Where soldiers stood on firing steps

And a Major sat on a wooden bench;

And the Sergeant whispered, “First-line trench!”

And the Captain whispered, “First-line trench!”

And the Aide repeated, “First-line trench!”

And Pershing whispered, “Yes, I see.

How far off is the enemy?”

And the faithful Aide he asked, asked he,

“How far off is the enemy?”

And the Captain breathed in a softer key,

“How far off is the enemy?”

The silence lay in heaps and piles

And the Sergeant whispered, “Just three miles.”

And the Captain whispered, “Just three miles.”

And the Aide repeated, “Just three miles.”

“Just three miles!” the General swore,

“What in the heck are we whispering for?”

And the faithful Aide the message bore,

“What in the heck are we whispering for?”

And the Captain said in a gentle roar,

“What in the heck are we whispering for?”

“Whispering for?” the echo rolled;

And the Sergeant whispered, “I have a cold.”

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