Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer Interrupted

I was all of 15 years old. Since my parents had returned to their missionary work in Africa while I remained in the U.S., living with relatives, I was visiting an uncle and aunt, on my mother's side of the family, who lived in Ohio.

It was a quintessential summer--sun filled days that leave your skin smelling fresh. My uncle was a pastor at a church in south-west Ohio, about 50 miles north of Cincinnati. I loved visiting them because my uncle and aunt had 4 daughters who were close to my age. Talk about a teenager's dream--being with 4 cousins in high summer. The dream went into overdrive when one of the members of my uncle's congregation asked if we wanted to help bale hay.

Well, sure--especially since there were several teenage boys involved. I can recall the smell of that newly mown hay--with all its tangy sweetness.

This summer reverie was interrupted when the telephone rang. News from central Pennsylvania where my father's parents were living. My paternal grandmother had died somewhat unexpectedly. She and my grandfather were visiting relatives in southern Ontario, when her heart--which had been very weak for many years--simply gave out.

At first, I thought it all an awful joke--but it was most certainly real. Another uncle, my father's brother, came to get me so we could return to central Pennsylvania for the funeral.

Years later, I caught a scent of fresh mown hay--and the recollection of my grandmother's death came flooding back. So, I wrote a poem, shared here with you.

Photo from

Age Born

The smell of hay hurts
With its sweetsharp tang
Ohio evenings—
Riding high
Doing no work
But slyly flirting with
Smooth brown farm boys.

Sky turning on an amber cloud
Brings twilight
In that musty clapboard
Church balcony
We sit pondering
Fine details of morality
Long gone.

Ritual of school ended
Our lemonaded night
Uncurls to distant lights
Golden girls giggling
At reveries of youth—
Of him who gently glanced
Awkwardly away.

Slight steaming morning
With sticky sheet sloughed
In a cousin’s home awake
Quick clanging brings hard news
Your grandmother has died
Swift cleavage from a past
As brittle pain sets in—

by KGMom © written c. 1975


Beth said...

That poem is so poignant. It seems like a slice of youth--kind of a peak through time. Thank you for sharing it, isn't it funny how scents can bring the memories back.

JeanMac said...

I had to read your poem twice and am sure I still lost some of your very talented words.May I print it for future reading?

Beverly said...

Thanks, KGMom, for sharing that. It is amazing how certain moments or scents as you mentioned evoke such emotions.

KGMom said...

All--I have a feeling we all have a similar memory of something that pushed us from our blissful teenage years into grown-up awareness. And, yes, scent is most evocative of memory.

JeanMac--of course you may print it for future reading.

NCmountainwoman said...

Lovely tribute to your grandmother. I do think we all have a "coming of age" moment in our lives. Thank you for sharing yours with us.

Ruth said...

A poignant poem from a pivotal time in your life. When my husband's father died, he got his dad's winter coat and hung it in our closet. We found one of our 5 year old twins in there one day wrapped in the coat because it "smelled like Grandpa". She was very fond of her "pa".

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oh, my. Your poem is powerful and full of emotion for me. My daughter (15) and I just spent 2.5 hours driving home from a weekend at Hasty Brook talking about the recent deaths in our family and about what triggers memories.
Thanks for sharing it with us.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I enjoyed your poem. The smell of properly cured hay is delicious and I understand how it can easily infect one's mind and trigger memories.

Nora said...

I am just back catching up on your blog...the poem is wonderful nice to visit always your writing inspires and gives me floods of memories...the poem is of familiar times for all of us ... but I think especially for the female is a shared "woman's stories poem". Can you do lots more please. cheers.

Ginnie said...

Yes, I think for all of us, especially females, we can remember that time when our lives changed forever.
A lovely poem and remembrance.

Climenheise said...

One of my regrets in life is that we were in Zim while such events were taking place in our family -- so that when Grandma died we heard about it only. At the time it was just the way things re: growing up one doesn't know what could be different. Thanks for the picture of that day so many years ago.

Mary said...

Thank you. This post hit the spot for me.