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Monday, May 14, 2012

HER GRANDMOTHER, Early Morning Refrain

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Early Morning Refrain

Was not handsome, or was she particularly wise,
No one ever claimed that she was brilliant,
But she painted well, an artist.
Today her family treasures and enjoys,
Landscapes and still lifes,
Wonderful evidence of her output and gift.

She applied the oils heavily, used both trowel and brush,
And captured wood and river, and rural architecture
All around her north New Jersey home;
She also rendered, remarkably, the wonder,
The special furl and spray of Atlantic waves
Which lapped upon her state’s southern shore.
And following the common adage,
Different time and place, who knows the fame,
The renown she might have attained?

She dressed her grandchild, a girl, in pricey sets,
And family and neighbors seem to appreciate it,
Oh isn’t Elsie wonderful!” They often said.

For all intents and purposes,
The infant miss was orphaned.
Her Mother was sick,
And was to spend a long-time in sanatorium,
Dad was gone.
He had run off and then started another family.

Two other girls, her older sisters, likewise deserted,
They stayed with paternal grandparents.
She, the baby girl, was separated,
And went to her mother’s mother and father.

Dad wandered off, then started another family.
Jealousy reigned; the new wife kept their father away,
He never went to see their mother,
And rarely visited the three girls he had left behind.

Grandma's girl was tall with curly blonde hair,
And cheek bones high enough to make for real beauty.
Possessing natural, happy disposition,
Her eyes beamed, and when all-dressed-up,
She looked as though,
She might catalog-model for children’s magazines.


But Elsie, she did have her ways.
(I am told to put it nicely!)
She paid no heed to the child's underwear,
Only interested in outward appearance,
Think on this a moment, for who could see it?

Though it might be tattered and dirty,
And Lord knows should have been replaced,
Especially when one considers the small expense,
She cared not the dollar amount of any outfit’s cost.

She was a master seamstress,
Favoring subtle, flower prints, nothing garish.
Grandmother used her talent to dress the girl like a doll.
A healthy woman, who loved her cats,
Fed those both inside and outside the house,
And took in every kind of stray, animal and human.

A former dancer who partook of chorus,
Had her training at LUNA PARK,
And, all who knew her swear,
She practiced kicks, over head, when
She had already celebrated birthdays past seventy.

Did she swap a place for her star on the walk,
Take lead role in gilded cage instead?

No way, she was tough and worked hard,
Created a wonderful home and with natural talent,
She cultivated a big garden, a green-thumb delight.

And guess what? To top it off,
She married well, a union man, a good provider,
A leader, he was respected and adored by all.

Sure he was a hard-nosed guy.
He had his trouble with the Schuberts and the mob,
No easy matter getting a salary for men,
Who changed the bulbs on marquee boards,
Who hauled wire, and painted the sets,
And whose days involved many other chores,
Which meant going up and down ladders.

Her grandpa made sure there was a decent wage
For the man whose job it was
To clean and bag after circus elephants.

Over the years, testimony holds,
-- Here we have no mean feat --
They fostered twenty-five kids, adopted four,
And then wound up having a girl of their own.

But something went amiss;
Grandpa went upstairs to bed,
Grandma slathered in wintergreen and liniment
Slept on living-room couch at night,
Hard to believe,
How long a time they spent their lives that way.

And after her Mom was finally released from hospital,
Grandmother balked when time came to return
The girl to whom she had grown attached,
The girl she helped to educate and rear.
She pretended the child were her own.
She used every kind of conceivable excuse;
Grandma tied to keep the mother and daughter away.

It was very late; sun had begun to signal new day.
Four decades had passed,
Separating the adult from events of her early tale,
I heard the woman, the granddaughter said,
We sat at the kitchen table, we had been up all night.
I heard her wax on the refrain,
Though she said it quiet and was ashamed,
I can not wish she were here.

I do not wish she were here today.'

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