I would like to dedicate this collection of my poems to the three people who did the most to encourage their creation, Kitty McDonough, Isabel Minier, and Pat Wheeler.
Kitty and Isabel taught a weekly poetry class for senior citizens. To motivate us and to provide an outlet for our work, they arranged many luncheons and seminars with local groups where class members read their works.
Pat Wheeler is the manager of the two senior citizen buildings on Early Street in Morristown. She allowed the class to meet in the community room of one of the buildings and often provided transportation for our readings. For many years she has supported activities wherein senior citizens are encouraged to use their creative talents.
The cover of this book was designed by Alberta Maydock Rooney, daughter-in-law of Laura Rooney the author. It was first drawn to illustrate the poem, An Apple Falls.
There was an extremely tall, Rambler apple tree in the Larson front yard in Larksville, Pennsylvania, where Laura grew up. Apples falling from it fell a long distance to the lawn. The Larson children were frequently sent to gather the smashed pieces of apples that had fallen to provide the family's constant supply of applesauce in season.
An Apple Falls
In the poem, Laura vividly recalls one of her common childhood experiences and uses it as a metaphor for the cycle of life itself.
The apple tree was old,
gnarled and tough.
It towered over my childhood home,
Outside my open bedroom window.
Each year it bore apples that were
large, juicy and delicious.
One hot, still night
as I tossed and turned, trying to sleep,
not a breath of air stirred,
not a quiver of movement anywhere.
I heard a faint rustling
in the upper branches of the tree.
Listening, I waited for the "Plop"
which would announce its arrival
on the ground below.
I could just imagine
the soft, squishy crash
as it hit the earth,
breaking into many juicy pieces.
So, once again
God's plan had worked.
At the exact moment of ripeness
the apple left the tree,
completing its cycle of life
from seed to seed.
So, it is with our lives.
We are born;
And when our time comes,
we go back to our Maker.
What Poetry Means to Me
Laura wrote this during a snowstorm in February of 1983.
She also alludes to a time in the 1950's when she and her youngest daughter Mary had gone to hear Robert Frost read some of his works at Douglas College in New Brunswick, New Jersey which Mary attended.
Poetry has meant different things to me
at different times of my life.
When I was six years old
I loved a little poem called "Over Yonder".
That title sounded intriguing
and beckoning to me
and the words, all new to me,
brought a comforting picture to my mind
that has stayed with me all these years.
Sometimes, I even sing the words,
"Over yonder, green boughs under
lies a little bird at rest.
Moving slightly, stirring lightly
in his warm and cozy nest."
And then, as I grew older
and became a big Seventh Grader
studying about the Civil War
and memorizing Finch's "The Blue and the Gray"
How emotional I became
when a veteran survivor of that awful war visited our class.
Tall and handsome in his blue uniform,
he told us about the Battle of Shiloh
and we, almost in tears,
recited for him,
"Under the sod and the dew
waiting the Judgement Day
Under the one, the Blue
Under the other, the Gray."
When I grew up
and became a teacher,
filled with all the enthusiasm and zeal of a beginner,
I read Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain"
to my young class
on Lincoln's birthday.
I was very dramatic about it!
I'm sure that even yet
some of them might think
that Lincoln was on a ship
and died just as it reached harbor.
I once met Robert Frost
when he lectured at Douglas College.
What a rare treat!
I think of him when I read
so many of his beautiful poems,
especially, "The Road Not Taken"
and pause for thought, of things long past
beyond changing now!
And I laugh when I recall
his answer to the question
"What exactly did you mean in 'Mending Walls'?",
and his answer
"Not a damn thing".
It surprises me
that I know of so many poems
I, who thought that poetry
was "not my dish"
Now, I find lines of poems
coming back to me
especially, this week of the blizzard, February, 1983.
I reread Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The Snowstorm",
"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky
Arrives the snow".
Laura draws in this poem a fond portrait of her mother, Sarah Jane Larson. Sarah's father, James Curtis, died in a mine accident in Leeds, England two weeks before her birth. Her mother Mary died giving birth to Sarah Jane. Within three years she lost an older brother and sister to disease. In 1866, when she was three years old, she and her older brother Thomas Curtis were brought from England to the United States by her maternal grandparents Thomas and Mary Gerrity.
These strokes of Sarah Jane's portrait will be quite familiar to anyone who has read
her book about family letters from 1887 to 1946, the year of Sarah Jane's death.
Mother of ten children
a very normal person,
no hang-ups, nor low-downs,
she enjoyed life and her family
and made our home a happy one.
When I think of her
I see flowers.
She was so often working with them,
both inside and outside the house.
She'd keep a bouquet in a vase
until the flowers were really dead.
She accused anyone of throwing them out too soon
as having a "hard heart".
She often surprised me,
as when she sang every word
of our school song,
or swam beyond the ropes
in Atlantic City
or danced a jig,
or conversed in Irish
with out Irish boarders,
or knew all about my friends
and welcomed them to our house,
although I hadn't told her about them.
She never dissuaded us children
from doing something
that we thought we could do,
She'd laugh heartily at us
for thinking it could be done
But she'd never say, "Don't do it".
She never set a curfew
for us to come home from a party,
She'd say, "When you've had your lemonade and cake
and the party is over, come home.
My God, where else would you go"?
She was ecumenical in thought
We attended the affairs
of all the different churches in our small town,
and when Billy Sunday, the evangelist,
came to town to conduct a revival,
We all went.
Mainly to sing, I must confess.
We never did hit the sawdust trail.
Although money was scarce,
she could always find fifty cents for a music lesson,
or a larger sum to pay her taxes
and get in the winter coal.
It was very important to her
to maintain a home for her family,
but her first priority,
was to build up our father
to us children.
She'd point out to us all his goodness
and develop in us a sense of worth,
very important, in a growing child.
At the age of 83
she faced death from cancer,
To prepare me for her loss,
as I was the youngest of her children,
she said to me, "Remember, that I'm going to Dad".
Aunt Bengta's Trunk
Laura's father, Olaf had originally migrated from Sweden with his sister and brother Bengta and Benjamin, who were twins. When he wrote them a letter in Texas in 1880 saying he was marrying a Catholic girl and was converting to that faith, they and the entire Larson family ended all correspondence with him.
Finally, after thirty-one years of silence, Bengta wrote to Olaf to say that she was old and alone and was going to have to enter a public home for the aged if he wouldn't take her in. He and Sarah Jane were happy to have her. In the summer of 1912 she sent a trunk full of her clothes to the Larsons. In September of that year Olaf was killed in the mines and Bengta died in October.
In the large closet of my bedroom,
as I was growing up,
was my Aunt Bengta's trunk
sent from Michigan many years before,
but I had never known her.
The trunk became my private possession
or, so I thought.
I loved to dress up in the "old lady dresses",
as I called them,
admire myself in the mirror,
prance around the room
or go downstairs to show my mother.
To reach all this finery,
I'd toss aside a bundle of letters,
tied by a ribbon
written in a strange (to me)
The years passed
Aunt Bengta's treasures were scattered,
unnoticed, in our busy lives,
the trunk empty.
How I wish that once again
I could sit in front of the trunk,
to retrieve the bundle of letters,
have them translated,
and perhaps learn more about
this dear Aunt Bengta of mine,
sister of my father
and of the other Laura in Sweden
for whom I was named.
The Joseph Larson mentioned in the poem was Laura's brother Joseph. He was born in 1891.
Young Joseph Larson making headstands
against the wall
Father Olof watching,
quoting softly to himself,
"As you are now,
so once was I.
and as I am now,
you surely will be."
The years pass
boy now a man,
Eyeing his grandsons,
running, jumping, climbing,
somersaulting in the air.
Thinks to himself,
"As they are now, so once was I,"
but he says nothing.
"Life will teach them,"
he thinks to himself.
I hope that it will be
gentle with them.
My Red "Umbranna"
This poem was also written on December 30, 1982. The gift was from Betty Jo Mangers, daughter of Joseph Larson.
Among my Christmas gifts this year
was a red umbrella!
How happy it makes me,
to know that a loved one
feels that I am young enough
to enjoy its gay hue.
Years ago, when I was four,
I had what I called,
"My red umbranna",
a child's umbrella.
How I loved it!
Rain or shine
I strutted around
under that lovely, colorful cover.
Years have passed
and I had long forgotten
that treasured possession.
But this year
with that gift of a red umbrella
memories came tumbling back
and I relive the joy
of "My red umbranna"
During the same Christmas season in 1982, Laura recalled a childhood Christmas.
Childhood memories of Christmas,
going to mass with my parents and sisters
at dark in the snowy morning.
All in a line, father breaking trail.
A quick glance at my new doll and carriage
before starting out.
The long, cold walk
but never a pout.
Later in the day
the singing, singing, singing,
the Welsh coal miners,
the Slavish choir in native tongue and
singing in our home.
Welcome to the Christ Child
in love and song
the whole day long.
When Laura read this poem to a modern Morristown audience, one woman came up to her after the program and complimented her vivid imagination. Imagine, a neighbor's cow falling in a coal mine and children feeling safe playing over cracks in the earth.
In my dreams I very often go back
to the home of my childhood.
Again, I see the loved faces and travel
with my next older sister and playmates
to the woods where we loved to go.
The "first woods" was near at hand
and to get to it we'd jump merrily
over cracks in the ground, unmindful
of danger from the mine underneath.
We'd sit in the woods and regale each other
with the story of Fogarty's cow
which had fallen into the mines
through a crack in the earth.
She took a sleigh ride down
padded by dirt, bushes and chunks of sod so
she arrived unhurt.
She scared a miner down there
into a resolve to live better.
He thought when he saw the horns
and the wildly rolling eyes
that the devil himself had come for him.
But we weren't afraid of falling in.
We didn't know enough to be afraid because
from earliest childhood we had lived with these cracks
and they held no terror for us.
Our fathers and brothers worked down there
and we thought of it as a friendly place
though we new, that the frequent appearances
of an ambulance
belied this assumption of safety.
so many memories of my life.
There was always music
in our home;
piano, organ, violin and singing.
I can still see us
bringing home the Christmas tree,
led by my father,
all of us singing.
In school, we learned part songs,
soprano and alto
and sang them at home
for our parents.
I'll never forget
hearing a sixth grade
sing "All through the Night" in four parts.
They sang it correctly and feelingly
In our small, mining town
were many ethnic groups.
We heard Russian and Slavish choirs,
danced with the Polish polka band
or enjoyed the German band
playing on the street corner
in the evening.
During World War I, we high schoolers
marched and sang at flag raisings
sang the soldiers off to war,
greeted them on their return,
always with song.
At parties we'd stand around the piano and sing every song we knew.
At one party, a noted violinist
came and played for us
and we felt so honored.
And finally, I remember
listening to a young immigrant miner
playing sadly on his flute,
and father saying,
"That boy is lonesome".
The plaintive notes
still hover in my memory.
A Memory of When I Was "Bad"
Laura had an ambivalent attitude toward the childhood danger described in the next poem. She really believed 'Aunt Jane' was trying to get a picket off the fence but felt she could run away safely, "All the Larsons were fast runners".
When I was five years old
I wanted to go to school
as my two older sisters did
but I was too young.
Sometimes, I'd follow them,
crying loudly, to their distress.
This infuriated a woman who lived along our lane
whom everyone called "Aunt Jane",
and who had a lovely picket fence
in front of her house.
When she'd hear me crying
and my sisters coaxing me to go back home,
her door would fly open and
she would rush out wildly
screaming at me to go back.
I'd stand still, not moving,
looking at her with big eyes
hypnotized by the show she'd put on.
She'd dash up to the fence,
attack it savagely, even kicking it and
tugging at a picket to loosen it
to beat me.
Her whole body went into action.
The knob of hair atop her head
would start a downward slide,
hairpins falling out,
apron strings accompanying her feet
in a wild dance,
while she tugged vigorously at a picket
trying desperately to loosen it.
I stood entranced by the exciting spectacle,
poised to run if she ever
got a picket loose,
but she never did.
Finally, tired of all the commotion
and mindful of my mother at home,
I'd turn and walk home quietly
and my sisters would proceed to school.
A True Story
Olaf Larson, aged sixty three and blinded by glaucoma in one eye, was killed in a coal mining accident in September of 1912.
The following summer of 1913, Sarah Jane Larson, his widow, ventured away to a summer resort to earn with her daughters enough money to pay taxes on her home and put in a winter supply of coal. This was to be a pattern followed for many years.
This first summer sojourn was to the Mountain House Inn in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. Laura accompanied her mother that year and earned her room and board by doing many odd jobs about the inn, from sweeping its encircling porches to ironing its cloth napkins and other tasks suitable for an eleven year old to do.
One dividend in her job was to be the recipient of tales told by the older waitresses. John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon had earlier visited the hotel. Seventy years after being told the story, she recorded it.
at the Mountain House Inn.
John D. Rockefeller was coming to dine.
The year was nineteen hundred and nine.
Such commotion in the dining hall
was never seen before.
All tables were set in fine array.
Waitresses checked in every way.
Music, piano at the ready,
to play their best
at the first appearance of the moneyed guest.
Nothing more to do, but wait and see the expected arrival of Johnny D
The maitre D was in a tizzy.
Nothing more to keep him busy.
An inspiration struck him,
oh, unlucky day!
"I know what I'll do",
he was heard to say,
"I'll get some flowers, and make a bouquet".
Out to the garden, he quickly dashed,
returned with peonies,
called for a glass.
placed them on the table fast!
Just then, at the door
appeared John D., surrounded by his company.
The music started
and all were seated,
pleased by the manner
in which they'd been greeted.
But, they soon jumped up
all red of face, shouting,
"Ants are running all over the place!"
Quickly the waitresses cleared the table,
Avoiding the ants as well as they were able
accepted and then
John D. was placed at another table.
It was not nearly as nice
but free from ants
and the danger of them
running down one's pants.
The meal was served
with subdued attention.
The words "peonies", or "ants"
no one dared to mention.
The Ants and the Aunts
Laura used the same peonies and ants as the base for the following short comic verse.
The peonies in the vase, were full of ants
but unsuspecting were the Aunts
who had invited their rich nephew, Abel
to drink and dine with them at table.
As all sat down, the ants ran out,
a picnic they smelled as they scurried about,
But consternation reigned, O My, O Me!
The Aunts screamed loudly, "Catastrophe!"
Laura minutely recalled Miss Minnie who was the proprietor of the large hotel in the Pocono Mountains where she worked in the summer of 1913.
That "Miss Minnie" made an unforgettable impression on a young girl is made clear in the following poem.
Miss Minnie had a perpetual stoop
and combed her hair up on top of her head
in an old-fashioned roll.
She was spinsterish and
scrupulous in her dealings with others.
Miss Minnie contained many personalities
in her huge and aging frame.
Her sharp blue eyes
could assume a change of expression
at a moment's notice.
There was the calculating look.
How far can I push the help?
Could each waitress, maybe iron one tablecloth
as a daily extra?
Or, maybe Laura could iron the napkins?
No, I'd better do them myself,
she wisely decides.
Her eyes agreed speedily, with a snap!
Then there was the caring and concerned look
when many waitresses became sick
from eating potatoes fried in tallow,
plain grease used for making candles.
Miss Minnie dosed everyone
with lemons and a nostrum.
Lady Bountiful taking care of her household.
Miss Minnie also had a loving look
when she gazed at her brother, Mr. Ed,
who lived on her bounty
and who sang, "Carry me back to Ole Virginny"
every night in the parlor
to entertain the guests.
She'd sit there, beaming and attentive,
when he sang.
A welcoming smile greeted all new guests.
An excited and questioning look
emanated from her eyes
when her niece brought home a new suitor.
All these different "looks"
were a part of Miss Minnie
seemingly "all capable"
but inwardly often a scared, frail girl.
Her eyes expressed happiness
and assumed fun and gaiety
as she danced with the guests in the evening.
But she always knew what was going on
around her domain.
The two violinists and the pianist
who played for the dancing knew that she was listening.
Also her darting eyes took in the peephole in the laundry door
which opened onto the dance hall.
She knew that several of us
were watching, but keeping quiet,
enjoying the music.
I can still see her
though seventy years have passed,
standing, stooped, tired, lost in thought
on the path leading from the hotel
to her cottage.
A few minutes respite,
before she again picks up her burden
and goes on.
When I was Eighteen
At age eighty-two, Laura wrote this poem to fulfill an assignment in the poetry class
sponsored by the Senior Citizen Center in Morristown, New Jersey.
Those were the days
when I was eighteen.
Life stretched out before me
to be eagerly seen.
What energy I had!
I marvel at it now!
To become a teacher,
was my ambitious vow!
East Stroudsburg Normal School
was my goal
for the two year course,
I was quick to enroll.
When there, a hike to Delaware Water Gap,
was a Saturday morning must!
Taking pictures along the way,
wasn't content to stand and smile,
pyramid forming, standing on my hands,
was more to my style.
When home for the holidays,
so much to do and see
to catch up on things
and enjoy the family.
Good to see the hometown boys,
attend a party, or two.
Gather up my things, and then
Hie my way back to ESN!
Back to school,
a second home now,
got right into the swing of things,
now I know how!
Playing on the Girls' Team
second baseman, proud
practicing until the dark,
screaming, with the crowd.
School term over
a summer job in Atlantic City,
to put some money in the kitty.
A nightly walk on the Boardwalk,
a daily dip in the sea
a dance on the Million Dollar Pier
How much happier could I be?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Just as most people remember their particular circumstances when they heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John Kennedy, Laura strongly remembers Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural address. She was living in the Highworks section of Scranton, Pennsylvania amidst poverty, unemployment and despair.
She and Frank Rooney married in 1926 and by the time of the inauguration they had three small children: Francis aged five, Leo four and Mary one. Frank, a trainman on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad was laid off.
Neighbors, like Steve Ruddy in the poem, who had radios shared them with people like Laura who couldn't afford one.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
president to be,
gave his Inaugural Address
in March, 1933
The country was in deep depression,
spirits low, and purses lean,
Would Franklin Delano help us?
That remained to be seen.
His words rang out,
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
He offered hope.
The people listened
heard the message, forgot their woes,
and that was enough.
In the cold March air
they laughed and joked,
thanked Steve Ruddy for sharing his radio
called him a generous host.
What appealed to so many,
something was going to be done
I'll never forget that day
if I live to be 101.
A Family Saying
The poetry class was assigned to write about a saying commonly used in their family. This reminded Laura of the oft repeated scene when she and her husband Frank would gather their family of three children and their belongings for the return trip home after a visit to a part of the family.
A familiar saying in our family
on many occasions was,
"If we don't have everything,
we have enough."
Getting small children ready to go home
after a visit with Grandma
We would be gathering up belongings,
searching for a missing mitten,
discovering a favorite toy
beneath the couch.
Mama's query to husband,
"Do we have everything?"
Answer, "If we don't,
we have enough."
Ma Perkins was an early radio soap opera. The setting of the poem was in the Highworks section of Scranton, Pennsylvania during the nineteen thirties.
Gardening is not my "favorite thing"
as my granddaughter would say,
but I did some once.
I planted a
"Ma Perkins Old Fashioned Flower Bed."
It was advertised on the radio
and I sent away for the seeds.
The garden was a miracle.
No two flowers were alike,
each one was beautiful!
Pink, purple, blue, white and yellow,
a breath-taking eye-filling sight.
But what pleased me most,
the plants were perennials.
They came up again the next year,
old friends on a return visit
welcome and beautiful as ever.
A Rainy Day in a Shipyard
After surviving the hard times of the Great Depression, the Rooney family was recovering when in 1941 Frank died of peritonitis after a gall bladder operation at the age of thirty-seven.
Laura tried to keep her family of three young children afloat by running a small neighborhood grocery store. She could see that it was only marginally successful and so prepared to go into the burgeoning war work of the time by taking evening courses in advanced math and blueprint reading.
In 1943, she took her children west to join her sister Johanna and her husband, Leo Gallagher on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. She obtained a job using blueprints in mounting metal name tags on the electrical circuits installed in the minesweepers under construction there.
In the next poem she describes a typical winter day in that shipyard. The second poem followed the reading of the first poem forty years later. The third poem was written as a reaction by a young female student to the reading of the second.
The shipyard was a busy place
that rainy day.
We were at war!
Rain in Seattle doesn't wet you,
so they said.
No heed was paid to raindrops
on the face,
nor splashes on the legs
nor skies that glowered.
Shiny bright yellow hard hats
reflected the scene
of minesweepers being built as they stood
half in and half out of the deep shore water.
Welders lit up the darkness
with sudden flashes
on the unfinished hulls.
Steam flew high.
All workers coming and going
braced to the rain
Traveled from ship to shore
and back again.
On our Russian allies' ship
The guard stood erect,
head held high,
gun on shoulder,
treading her beat
on the slippery deck
unmindful of the rain.
Coffee stands barricaded,
Curtains flapping in the wind,
Counters sported instant rivulets
on which the coins rode up
and the filled coffee cups rode down.
A lonely whistle sounded
choked and dreary
as if it had a cold.
A fog horn answered
from far out on the sound,
adding to the desolate scene,
to workers, many far from home.
The flags hung bravely hugging their poles,
drooping and still,
heavy with rain
waiting for the sunshine
to come again.
Thursday, the Thirteenth
We oldsters read our poems to a high school class,
and how quickly the period passed.
When I read, "A Rainy Day in a Shipyard:,
I felt that a door was opened on history
to at least one young girl.
She asked, "When were the Russians ever our allies?"
I told her that it was during World War Two.
I encouraged her to read more about that time.
I hope that she'll look it up,
and when she does that she also learns
that loyal Japanese American citizens
were summarily ousted from their homes
and put in camps in the Midwest
from that same Bainbridge Island
where the shipyard was.
Thus turn the pages of history.
Let's teach the young what happened, and why.
So, maybe it won't happen again.
This poem was written by a student in a class on aging at Morristown High School. She had listened to a panel of senior citizens from the Morristown Senior Center, of which Laura was one.
I sat through a class with some people.
These people were over seventy.
I wondered about their lives.
I wondered what they'd say.
I listened through a class with some people.
I listened to History, itself.
Fascinated by the lives of these people,
they taught me much of what I missed.
I sat down afterward and thought,
"These people love what they did,
and love what they are saying!"
I was afraid of being old,
afraid of facing the aged.
But, now my outlook fascinates me.
I, too, want to be a natural historian!
Christmas Eve in the Shipyard During W.W.II
During the Christmas season of 1983, Laura recaptures a Christmas Eve forty years previously.
It was the Eve of the celebration of
Work went on as usual
in the shipyard,
minesweepers were being built.
We were at war!
A newborn baby's cry
would not be heard in the din.
Hammers clanged against the bulkhead.
All lights ablaze!
The tattoo of hurried footsteps
filled the air.
the rays from the Star of Bethlehem
could not penetrate the inferno.
Above, the quiet, remote sky
looked on indifferently.
moon shone brightly.
No one paused to look
at the heavenly beauty.
Frenetic activity continued.
We were at war!
Laura and her three children lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania for one year only. Laura had taken her family from the state of Washington to war work at the Bethlehem Steel Company. When the war ended in the summer of 1945 she accepted a job teaching in the elementary school in Mendham, New Jersey.
When her daughter Mary told a friend's mother that her family was going to settle in New Jersey the woman said, "It's only another stepping stone for your mother." Laura taught in Mendham for twenty years and used the remark as the inspiration for this poem.
The creek was wide and shallow
its water meandering slowly downstream.
Here and there a submerged rock,
water foaming around it sluggishly,
betrays its presence.
But some rocks refuse to be buried.
They rear themselves proudly up to the sun,
and these become stepping stones.
They furnish footage for those who wish to cross,
and ease the traveler along his way,
step by step across the stream.
In life there are symbolic stepping stones.
These are the stages by which we progress
from point to point
as we reach our goals.
These symbols take many forms,
but they are there,
giving us humans, briefly,
a place to stop and assess our progress
before going on along life's highway.
Laura taught in grades two and three in the Hilltop Elementary School in Mendham, New
Jersey from 1946 to 1965. In her last year of teaching there she had her second
graders write about their mothers to honor Mother's Day. She pulled excerpts from
their writings to form this composite poem. It made a great hit among the mothers.
Mothers are for loving.
They are for fixing sores.
They help you.
They make breakfast and dinner.
They shop, and buy things.
Mothers are very nice.
They take care of us.
They work very hard.
These are some of the things they do:
talk on the phone for a long time,
take us places.
Sometimes they holler.
Some mothers make candy,
but not all of them do.
Mothers work for us.
We like mothers.
Each of us can say,
"I love my mother,
and my mother loves me!"
Catherine M. Emmons wrote a book, Through The Years in Mendham Borough. In it she says that one of the early schools in Mendham was The Academy which was established in 1795 on a portion of the land now occupied by the Hilltop Elementary School located on Hilltop Road. The First Presbyterian Church sits near the school and astride the hill and is known as the Hilltop Church. The original church was used as a hospital for the soldiers of the Continental Army encamped in Jockey Hollow during the winters of 1778-1779 and 1779-1780. Twenty seven of these soldiers are buried in the cemetery in back of the church, most victims of smallpox.
What a lovely name
for a road to have!
bringing to mind
visions of rising scenery,
far flung vistas.
Traversed by soldiers
in the time of the Revolution,
horses plodding along slowly,
leaving tracks in the mud.
Today, the road is still in use
traversed by school children
who festoon the wayside bushes
with their homework papers,
blown out of their hands
by the wind, they claim.
My Unfavorite Thing
Like most children, the Rooney boys have two grandmothers whose tastes sometimes differ. When Lars was about six years old both grandmothers visited our home in Mendham Township.
Grandmother Maydock spent the afternoon watching her favorite soap operas before she would drive the roughly forty miles to Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Lars wisely agreed with her timing.
I have never watched a soap opera
in its entirety,
So who am I to judge?
To while away an afternoon
with fantasies contrived
that I've never tried.
Can listening to them
be an addiction
that causes the addict to say,
Don't call me from one to four,
I'll call you when the program's over.
I have to find out if Mrs. Timekiller
will really leave her husband.
Or, has he a girl on the side?
Is her daughter living with that bum?
I've got to know.
One woman I know,
who had a trip to make
over a busy highway,
didn't want to miss her "soaps".
So she asked her six year old grandson
if 4 p.m. wouldn't be the best
time to travel.
Wouldn't the traffic be lighter then?
Reading her mind,
as children will,
he said, "Yes, it would be better
to travel then,"
and so she did.
Like Scarlet O'Hara
in "Gone With The Wind",
the soap opera fan
puts troubles aside
saying, "I'll think of them tomorrow".
So, the hours go by
and another day passes,
and all is well
with the soap opera lasses.
The inspiration for this poem came from the birth of Laura's grandson Curtis. On February 2, 1963 at 4:00 A.M. she received a phone call from me asking her to come and stay with my son Lars as pre-arranged. I was going to take Alberta the five miles to Morristown Memorial Hospital for a delivery.
The roads were extremely icy but both she and I got to our destinations without mishap.
When Laura woke Lars to tell him he had a brother he expressed his disdain for the
choice of Groundhog Day when he could have had the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington.
However, he immediately got on the phone to tell all the neighbors that the
appearance of the groundhog that day was being upstaged by the appearance of his brother.
The Groundhog came up
out of his hole today,
groggy with sleep
like a tired child.
But when he saw the sun
and his own shadow,
he awoke completely and danced around
like a gamboling spring lamb.
Laura visited her oldest daughter Francis and her family at the marine corps base at Quantico, Virginia when the Gouveia children were young. After her visit she returned by train to New Jersey. Her grandson Frankie, driving home from the station with his mother and pondering the exciting departure he had just witnessed, asked the question which concludes this poem.
The rain thundered into the station
with a roar,
frightening little Frankie
who was not yet four.
The clanging, the whistle,
kissing Grandma "good-by",
the haste and excitement,
the "All Aboard cry",
made him stand there apart
while dismay filled his heart.
Then, queried Frankie,
not yet four,
"Do we have a Grandma
The Clown Room
Ernest Gouveia married Frances, the oldest of Laura's three surviving children. Ernie had a younger brother, Nippy whose wife Ellen is the dauber in the clown room.
preparing to paint her bedroom,
tries out the different colors,
to see which she likes best.
A daub of green paint here,
blob of yellow there,
one whole side of the room
pristine in white.
So hard to decide.
Blue is beautiful,
all shades of it,
fun to try them all!
The whole collage of color,
looked so intriguing, to Ellen
that she left it all on,
called her mother-in-law to admire it.
"Clown Room", said her mother-in-law
closing the door
on the whole freakish display.
What The Senior Center Means To Me
After retiring from teaching in 1965, Laura moved to 94 Washington Street in Morristown. She moved from here to the Senior Citizen Center on Early Street in the summer of 1984. her association with the programs and activities of the center goes back to 1965. In February of 1983 she wrote, "What The Senior Center Means To Me."
What does the Senior Center mean to me?
It means that Morristown
cares for the elderly,
that someone is thinking and planning for us,
that someone is there to whom we can speak
and who will listen
and who will help, if possible.
It's a place to go
to participate in interesting activities,
and to learn
to keep in contact with the young,
give them a helping hand.
When the poetry class presented their creations to groups in the Morristown area, Laura was frequently asked to begin the program with a reading of "The Troubadours."
The minstrels of old,
poets of their day,
traveled from court to court
and had much to say.
Chanting their poetry,
strumming as they sang,
with the beat and rhythm
from which their music sprang.
During her retirement years, Laura joined two groups of senior citizens in writing classes sponsored by the Senior Citizens Center in Morristown. She joined the first in 1977. It was guided by Fran Olach. Ruth Hoster was a close friend of Laura's and a fellow member of the writing class. When Ruth saw that Laura had published her writings she did likewise. She said she never would have done it without Laura's example.
Ruth won't be coming to poetry class
though we've been expecting her.
Hoping and praying that she could come
and that she'd be well
and joining us soon.
But God had other plans for her.
But, we can be remembering her,
happy, loving and giving.
to see that all was going well.
Taking her first plane ride
holding my hand as the plane
began "revving" up.
Pounding the roster there,
as the first speaker in our program,
shouting, "I'm me, "I'm alive, I'm a person."
Or enjoying her dinner
in the revolving dining room,
viewing the new scenes
as they came into view.
meeting death as the soldier
which she was,
providing all of us
with a brave example to live by.
Our Trip To The House Of The Good Shepherd
The poetry class was frequently assigned to write about their most recent visit to a group to recite their poems. This example celebrates a visit to a local rest home for the ill and elderly in the fall of 1983.
The House of the Good Shepherd
received us well
when we visited them
our poems to tell.
We thought to entertain them
by reciting our wares,
but they did more for our morale
than we did for theirs.
They responded with
feelings of hope, cheer and love.
Each one did his best
and some did more.
An interchange of good fellowship
took place, and all agree
the trip was well worthwhile
for all who love poetry.
The Larson family frequently gathered around the piano to sing during Laura's childhood. She learned to play the piano early and has had many pianos in the homes and classrooms she has occupied through the years. Her last piano described here dominated the living room of her Washington Street apartment in Morristown. It was given to her by her grandson Lars who trucked it down from his college in Oneonta, New York.
My piano is
the one constant in my life
of many changes.
Symbol of family love and togetherness,
it stands there staunchly,
it's top displaying the family pictures.
Vases obscured behind them
one on each end, as always.
The keyboard readily responds
to a touch.
My helper when I practice,
A valued and true companion
To my older years,
as it was to my younger.
Where Would I Like To Be?
Laura's sister Johanna lived with her husband, Leo Gallagher in Longview, Washington after the war. Many times, Laura boarded a west bound passenger train in Dover, New Jersey for a visit with this beloved couple. The poem was written in the spring of 1983. The plaintive last stanza recognizes the fact that Johanna and Leo have died and that Laura is not up to continental train ride now.
I'd like to be
riding happily and free
on a train that's going west
our country there to see.
The hustle and the bustle,
the, "All aboard", cry.
An emotional good-by.
"All visitors off the train."
Let's get on our way
to meet what lies in store for us
and laugh along the way.
"Chicago, all change!"
Travelers on the move,
still going westward,
still in a gay mood.
Still going westward
but on another train
This time a Pullman
some sleep to gain.
On days, I'll sit in the dome car
and keep a sharp lookout.
Might see a buffalo
or a bandit, about.
At Mandan, North Dakota,
the Indians dance.
Then sell beaded trinkets
our beauty to enhance.
At each stop, to stretch
we get off the train,
staying close to the steps
so, we can hop on again.
Glacier National Park, Montana,
a place I'd love to stay!
It's beauty remains with me
to this very day.
Crossing the Rockies,
engines pushing and pulling,
viewing the wonderful scenery galore.
Wish we could stay and see some more.
Onward, we go,
until we reach our goal,
balm to the soul.
But now I'm back in Jersey
Hearing train whistles blow!
"All aboard for Oregon!"
But never more to go.
Laura frequently turned to an examination of the implications of current events as these next poems demonstrate.
Flight 007 To Seoul
A happy September day,
passengers boarding Flight 007
bound for Korea in 1983,
all in a holiday mood.
Summer is over, vacations ended.
Many homeward bound,
others, eagerly expectant
ready to face new prospects.
But now, in flight,
the unthinkable has happened!
In a blast of senseless destruction,
007 was shot down
with cold and deadly precision,
bringing death to everyone on the plane,
even to babies.
"Why?", we ask.
There is no answer.
We stand by helplessly.
Sorrow and fear fill our hearts.
We wonder where it will all end.
Can we humans save ourselves?
Or have we gone too far
down the road
We hear of dire things to come
"We'll all be blown out of space
by a nuclear blast
that will end the human race."
But, no, that cannot be.
Human brains will find a way
and with God's help
will save the day!
Brotherhood and love
will some day rule
becomes the secret tool.
So, let's work on it now
and pray for the ban
that will pave the way
for all to continue
in God's own plan!
The Nuclear Bomb
Planet Earth speeds on its orbit,
keeping to the path,
obeying all laws of nature.
But, not so its inhabitants.
They fight each other,
vying for power,
unmindful of the seeds of destruction
they are sowing,
or perhaps not caring.
In their lust for power,
they destroy the very goals
which they seek.
A New Start
A bonus, nineteen eighty four,
an extra year to perfect our lives,
a second chance to gain in mind and body,
and time to reach out to others
and to enjoy this gift of another year.
In gratitude for this precious boon,
let us make a new start
and with God's help
a good finish.
As I write my poems each week,
I'm becoming conscious
of a thread, a theme of hope,
which pervades each,
no matter how "downbeat" the
subject matter is.
after describing a sad day
at the battlefield of Gettysburg,
a singing nightingale
ends the day on a happy note.
Then, the poem telling
of the noise and confusion
on the minesweeps
being readied for war,
work going on as usual
even though it was Christmas Eve.
Then, the poem telling
of the noise and confusion
on the minesweeps
being readied for war,
work going on as usual
even though it was Christmas Eve.
Then, the breather off the ship
for a trip to the tool shed and a glimpse of the night sky,
placid and twinkling, no turmoil there,
as on the night our Savior was born.
no disruption there.
And now, today,
while war cries
echo around the world,
we are greeted by a profusion
of colorful blossoms,
more beautiful than ever.
The poems presented so far have largely reflected various phases of Laura's life as you might expect. The next batch of poems are not so related. They were written in the early 1980's as part of her contribution to the second "poetry class" guided by Kitty McDonough and Isabel Minier.
Flower show at the Armory,
spring is in the air,
bracing up our spirits
with flowers gay and rare!
St. Patrick's Day and Easter,
new spring clothes,
garden to get ready,
planning the rows!
Snow on the hillside,
crocus peeping through,
yellow and beautiful,
Skunk cabbage in the bog,
looking, oh, so fair,
rooted deep in mud,
stinking up the air.
Polliwogs in the rain barrel,
darting to and fro,
stirring up the murky depths
of the water, deep below.
An arched dome over the earth
looks down on us humans,
saying, with Shakespeare,
"What fools those mortals be!"
Not content to enjoy
their beautiful, God-given earth,
they search for more and more power
to blow it up.
The sky protests,
hurling thunder bolts at us
writing warning words, with lightening,
across the dark sky.
A change in mood
and a blue sky
smiles down on us benignly
as it has, for centuries.
The Nightingale Sang
What a rare treat!
Sitting in an arm chair
on the lawn of a motel in Pennsylvania
in the cool of a June evening,
we heard a nightingale singing.
There on the roof of the motel,
this migratory warbler
was chanting his love song
to his mate
who was hatching her brood.
It took her long,
but he never stopped singing,
continuing on into the night.
We sat there listening,
transfixed by the beauty of it all.
Finally, toward midnight,
we went to bed.
The beautiful melody went on
all through the night.
dozing off and on,
loathe to miss a single note,
we spent the night,
sleeping at daybreak
when the song ended.
Now, the song "lingers" on
in my memory,
along with the whole beautiful scene
of the nightingale perched aloft,
singing his heart out
all through the night.
The Gift From God
One hot summer morning
the flowerbed aside of my porch
revealed a strange new plant.
Like Topsy, it just "growed".
No one had planted it.
It wasn't a weed.
Just existed there sturdily
as if it meant to stay,
and stay it did!
How fast that strange interloper grew,
Delicate new tendrils
hung precariously in the air,
looking for something to cling to.
Green berries and tiny lavender flowers
made their appearance in time,
and the beautiful green vine
reached up and up
in leaps and bounds,
attaching itself greedily
to supports that I had strung.
No more did I ask
from whence it had come
I accepted its presence
believing in my heart
that it was a gift from God,
bringing pleasure and wonder
with its welcome
cool, green shade.
Forsythia is in bloom!
Bright yellow blossoms
dispel all gloom of winter
and rainy spring days.
It flaunts itself,
shouting to us, as we pass,
"Look at me!
Here I am again.
Did you think I wasn't coming?"
The forsythia is more breathtakingly beautiful
All is right with the world.
Smelling the Roses
"You must take time
to smell the roses",
the flower vendor cries.
"They are here in all their beauty,
right beneath your eyes."
"Take time to get God's message
from their aroma,
and life will have more meaning,
as you wend your way from here."
Before the snows have finally left
she sends harbingers to tell us
that she is on her way.
These small, brave messengers,
raise their yellow heads out of the snow
and announce to us,
that once again, all is well.
The earth will bloom again.
As I look at a bouquet of tiny forget-me-nots,
into each small,
perfectly formed flowerette,
I see proof of God's love
and His master plan for the world.
No detail is overlooked.
The green stems are just the right size
to hold so fragile a flower.
Each flowerette has five miniature petals,
no more, no less.
These last two works are written in prose. When I told my wife that since they were not poems irrefutable logic demanded their exclusion from a book of poetry. Alberta said, "Put them in. I'd like to see them preserved."
It would be churlish for a man to argue with his wife and his mother who is here for a
second visit by Halley's comet.
In June, 1910, my mother and I were on a train going to Butte, Montana, to bid good-by to my two older brothers who were leaving Montana. They were taking up Homestead Land in Oregon where they planned to ranch and thus get out of the copper mines in Butte.
Every night, on the four night, five day train trip, we enjoyed the exciting sight of Halley's Comet in the sky, along with all the other passengers. To my childish perception (I was eight years old), it looked like a long, fiery animal, with huge round head, long, hazy body, which curved to a long, bushy tail.
I could just imagine someone, or something, standing at the rear of the
body, throwing fireworks, out, making a tail. This stretched wildly across the
heavens, long, and brilliant, and scary.
Coming Full Circle
I came early for dinner in the dining room of the Senior Citizens Center on Early Street in Morristown. I sat at the table, alone, hands in lap, waiting quietly for my dinner to be put before me. A feeling came over me that I had experienced this scene a long time ago and felt the same sense of peace and silence.
It was myself as a child in 1913, sitting at a table alone in the kitchen of a hotel in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, waiting for the chef Tony to put my dinner plate before me. I'd sit there quietly, hands folded in lap, waiting peacefully for it to arrive.
My father had recently been killed in the coal mines. My mother got a job in the kitchen of the hotel so that she could earn money to pay her taxes on our home and get in the winter supply of coal. I was eleven years old, the youngest of a family of eight, so she took me with her.
To earn my room and board, I was to make myself useful to Miss Minnie, part owner of the hotel. All day Miss Minnie kept me busy running errands, ironing napkins, sweeping the porches, and other jobs within my strength and ability. I ate my meals in the kitchen. Probably the waitresses didn't welcome an eleven year old eating with their group. I didn't mind but lived my own life and thought nothing of it.
When the Senior Citizens dining room filled up and others arrived at the table, the spell disappeared. For a time, it was nice to go back seventy-three years and recapture the peace and tranquility of those days, to complete the circle, as it were. I had come "full circle", safe in God's hands all the way.