Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

My Dad use to be an auction junkie. He would find an auction in the paper, insist he had to go for 1 particular item & come home with completely different things. He particularly had a problem with buying a whole box of books to get 1 book. He'd bring the box home, grab the book he bought the box for & put it on his bookshelf & send the rest upstairs to the attic. A practice that nearly drove my mom insane, but one that I secretly LOVED because it always meant there were old books around. 

There is something about the smell of old books with ratty pages & new books with crisp pages. Old stories written in older styles of writing & newer stories written in a more modern language; it doesn't matter they all have the ability to draw me into the world they create. For me there's just something about books in general. In an ideal world, I would have a library in my house that goes floor to ceiling with one of those cool "fly around the room" ladders & a big fireplace to curl up in front of in a big comfy chair.  I know my family thinks I'm crazy as a loon, but I truly love books!

As a tween/teen, I began collecting quotes & poetry. Sometimes I'd write my own, but mostly I'd collect sayings & poems that really spoke to or moved me. (Years later, in a fit of "why do I keep this crap",  I threw everything I had collected or wrote in the trash. Something I've greatly regretted since then, but what's done is done.) 

Anyway, back to the story I wanted to share today...

I have no idea how old I was, I'm guessing somewhere between 11-14, Dad left to go to an auction & came home with a box of books. Normally the boxes didn't have anything in them I wanted to read, but I still loved looking through them. I distinctly remember him sitting the box down on the kitchen table & pulling out this:

He said, "I bought this whole box because I wanted you to read something..." & he flipped to this page: 

And I began to read: 

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver
Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Son," said my mother,
When I was knee-high,
"You've need of clothes to cover you,
and not a rag have I.

"There's nothing in the house
To make a boy breeches,
Not shears to cut cloth with
Nor thread to take stitches.

"There's nothing in the house
But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman's head, 
Nobody will buy,"
And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.
When came the late fall, 
"Son," she said, "the sight of you 
Makes your mother's blood crawl, - 

"Little skinny shoulder-blades
Sticking through your clothes!
And where you'll get a jacket from
God above knows.

"It's lucky for me, lad
Your daddy's in the ground,
And can't see the way I let
 His son go around!"
And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.
When came the winter,
I'd not a pair of breeches
Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn't go to school,
or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
passed our way.

"Son," said my mother, 
"Come, climb into my lap
And I'll chafe your little bones
While you take a nap."

And, oh, but we were silly
For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
Dragging on the floor. 

To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
For half an hour's time!

But there I was, a great boy,
And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
To sleep all day,
In such a daft way? 

Men say the winter
Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf's head
Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us
Was a chair we couldn't break,
And the harp with a woman's head
Nobody would take
For song or pity's sake.

The night before Christmas
I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
Like a two-year old.

And in the deep night
I felt my mother rise, 
And stare down upon me
With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting
On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
From I couldn't tell where, 

Looking nineteen,
And not a day older
And the harp with the woman's head
Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving
In the thin, tall strings, 
Were weav-weav-weaving
Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,
From where I couldn't see, 
Were running through the harp-strings

And gold threads whistling
Through my mother's hand.
I saw the web grow, 
And the pattern expand.

She wove a child's jacket,
And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
And wove another one. 

She wove a red cloak
So regal to see, 
"She's made it for a king's son,"
I said, "and not for me."
But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches
Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens
She wove a little blouse, 
She wove all night
In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,
And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
And the thread never broke.
And when I awoke-

There sat my mother
With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
And not a day older,

A smile about her lips, 
And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
Frozen dead.

And piled up beside her
And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king's son.
Just my size.

When I finished reading, I remember looking up at Dad & remarking what a sad, terrible story that it was & why on earth would he want me to read that poem.  He just said it was a great story of the love of a parent & told me I could keep the book while the rest of that big ol' box of books went to the attic with the rest.  

Even then, I often thought about how Dad had bought a whole box of books to share this one poem with me. I knew there must be something he was trying to say through it, but it took time & maturing to understand. As I mentioned before, I've long since thrown out the poems, writings, quotes, etc. I had written & collected, but I've kept this book. On occasion I've thought of throwing it in a yard sale pile, but I've never been able to bring myself to do it. 

For me, it's a tangible reminder of two things: 

* A parent's love - specifically, MY parent's love. I never read that poem without thinking of what my Dad was trying to say to me through it. And I never read it without thinking of the depth of his love for me & my brother.


* It reminds me that even though there were/are times when I think my Dad totally doesn't get me, perhaps he "got me" more than I realized. Dad was never one to try & "talk" his deeper points into me (not that he didn't try to pound some of the less deep points into my stubborn head! haha!). Looking back, I can see how, for the really important stuff, he always just planted the seeds & let life itself cultivate his points, until I could see clearly what he meant. 

The book now sits, with this poem bookmarked, on a bookshelf I pass multiple times each day. A simple glance at it reminds me of Dad & his love for me. To some people that probably seems foolish, but I think he must have known how much poetry & words spoke to me. Maybe he already knew that, one day, I'd read this poem & finally "get it".

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My first car...

My first car was a 1988 (?) Honda Civic. I had been borrowing Dad's old white pickup truck to go wherever I thought I needed to go. I still remember seeing it setting up on a hill across from the intersection of SR37 & Cherry Street (where my grandparents use to live).  I turned 16 in 1993 so this would have been late '93 or early '94, but that 5 or 6 year old car looked like it had heaven shining down on it to my teenage eyes :)

I remember Mom & I stopped to look at it. You'd think I'd remember the price tag, but I don't (not off the top of my head - I probably still have the loan papers somewhere). I remember being so nervous that Dad would say "no" when Mom told him about it. But he didn't. The next week, he cosigned on my very first loan so that I could buy the car. I remember my payment was a little bit of nothing by today's standards, but I was working at a video store in town part time & I didn't make much money. Still, I was determined I could swing the payments. Dad had said that I had to make the payment & pay for gas. He would pay for my insurance as long as my grades stayed high enough that I got a good student discount on his insurance. If my grades fell, I had to park the car & make the payment & pay for insurance myself. 

I know a lot of kids today just get their cars handed to them, but at that point in time, I thought I was getting a great deal! I loved that the car was "mine" (even if it was in Dad's name - haha!)  

It was a great car. It went well in the snow (most of the time). One of my favorite stories about that car came later on after I was an adult. I was staying with Dad & a big ice/snow storm came through. The ice caused the electric meter to be pulled off the house & his electric to go out. Dad slipped & slid all the way home from work in his work vehicle to get me so that we could go back into town & stay with a friend who actually had heat. For whatever reason we decided to take my car back to town. (Maybe it was the only front-wheel drive vehicle we had, I can't remember). Anyway, he got it hung up in the front yard first thing. He had me at the wheel & him behind it pushing & he kept saying, "Whatever you do don't gun the gas, you'll cover me in mud & crap." So I was being as gentle as possible with the gas, but the car wasn't going anywhere. Finally, I said, "Why don't I push & you man the wheel?" Well, we got the car unstuck, but not before he literally COVERED me in mud, snow & ice! I guess I should've been upset, but mostly I was glad to be heading somewhere warmer than our house without electricity. I hop in the car & said, "Well, I could've done that!" & he sheepishly looks at me & says, "Oops.  Sorry about that."

So we head out. Anyone who knows where my Dad lives knows it's out in the middle of nowhere & requires going up/down large hills regardless of the direction you take to get to town. So Dad & I sit ready to head out on the road & discuss what would be the best way to slide to town. He decides we'll see if we can make it down Copeland Hill (a large, treacherous hill between his house & town). We did, miraculously. As we sit at the bottom of the hill, he says "Wonder if we should try Hall Hill or go up behind the Peaks?"  Why he listened to me I have no idea, but I said, "Go the Peaks route, it's more of a gently sloping incline than going down Hall Hill." So dad, without questioning it, turns down Log Creek Rd & heads for the county road that leads up the back side of where Paoli Peaks sits. 

When we turn onto that county road, I immediately think "Crap". It looked like Mt. Everest looming in front of us. Dad just said, "Well, here we go." That ol' car, slipped & slid about every direction possible. Thank God no one topped the hill coming from the other direction because that little compact car was using the entire road (& part of the shoulders) to claw it's way up that "gently sloping" hillside. About halfway up, I look over at Dad who is fighting the wheel like a mad man trying to keep us from going off the road & into a large ditch. I must have looked like, "This was not a good idea." cause he looks over at me & calmly says, "If we get out of this alive, you're dead." I think I mumbled a "sorry".  Eventually, that ol' Honda landed at the top of the hill. Dad stops the car for a minute & looks over at me again & says, "Gently sloping my ass!"  

The rest of the way to town seemed uneventful. I'm sure we slipped & slid, but I guess it was all just relative considering the feat we'd just accomplished.  Years later, Dad still talks about my description of that hill as "gently sloping" & how he nearly ruined the practically new coat I had on when he gunned the gas to get us out of the front yard. I can't even think about the whole ordeal without chuckling. Even as I write this, I'm smiling & thinking about what idiots we were to even attempt that hill. 

I think the car had around 80,000 miles on it when we bought. Years later I sold it to another teenage girl with over 150,000 miles on it, I think. She & I sometimes joke that that ol' car is probably still chugging along out there somewhere. It wasn't a brand new car & it wasn't handed to me free & clear, but it was mine & I was proud of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Places I'd like to visit...

In no particular order...


Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Washington, D.C.  
I want to see many of the historic sites & museums, but mostly I want to see the WWII Memorial...my Papaw Patton's name is there & I want to see it for myself...



Pyramids in Eygpt

I think America has some beautiful countryside & I'd love to see as much of it as possible. I hope to one day be able to say I've sat foot in all 50 states :) 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I've been thinking for some time about my blog & why I have it. I don't run an awesome, regularly updated blog like Cris over at Goodness Gracious or a great blog about homeschooling like Jamie at A Day in the Life...

No, I started this blog as a place to journal my thoughts, document my journey through school & motherhood, jot down happy memories & work through frustrations (which I've always done better attacking through writing).  I've not amassed a large following of readers and I seldom get a comment on my thoughts.  All of which is fine, because, as I already mentioned, that really wasn't the point when I started this.

In the past few weeks I've sit down to write on more than one occasion & I always ended up deleting what I was writing because I would think, "No one wants to read this..." or because I was afraid of how my words would be miscontrued & used against me or my family. (Sadly, judging me & my family is something some people in my life have decided is a great way to pass their time.)

Which really got me to thinking about why I wanted to blog in the first place.  And, as much as I love my cyber buddies, my blog was really, originally, for me.  How can it be for me if I feel like I have to censor what I write or meet a particular level of "interesting" before what I've written is publish worthy?

My whole life I've used writing as an outlet. It's always been therapeutic for me. I really want to get back to blogging for the main reason I started it...to write. For me. Freely. Not based on who I thought might read it. 

I recently found the directions to make a journal-in-a-jar and I got to thinking that might be a great start for getting me back to writing for me again. And, in the process, maybe it will create something LiviGirl might want to read one day too...