by Caren Crane
A few months back, I was doing research on the internet and some random bit of text reminded me of a poem my father used to read to us when my siblings and I were little. After trying to recall snippets and doing a number of Google searches, I tracked it down: "Lil' Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley. The poem existed long before the cartoon of a similar name (and the cartoon bore no relation to it whatsoever).
Riley was a farm boy and a Hoosier (that's someone from Indiana for those of you outside the USA). He has been called the "people's poet laureate." One thing that impressed me about this poem (and others by Riley) was the country dialect Riley used, which my father recited as if it were written for him. Another was that it was slightly dark and creepy. The refrain was:
"An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
When I found the text of the poem on the internet (which is all in the public domain, by the way), I noticed there was a dedication. I believe my father read this sometimes, but hadn't recalled it before I saw it:
WITH ALL FAITH AND AFFECTION
To all the little children: - The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones - Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely
That last part made me laugh. We were a rowdy bunch of kids, my siblings and I. I think my father enjoyed us being "the lovely bad ones" at times. My father has been dead for 13 years now and was gone from our lives for many years before he died. My father was not a great man, but he had a wonderful, resonant voice and a marvelous talent for storytelling. I will always remember this poem and the other poems and stories he took time to bring alive for us.
My father gave us the gift of his animated storytelling. I tried to create a similar experience for my own children. My fond hope is that they will pass it along to their own children when they have them. I also hope to give my own stories to the world someday - but that depends on some extra smart editor. *g*
What about you? Is there a special poem, book or story that recalls your childhood? One you heard each night or on special occasions? One that brings memories back on a wave of rhyming couplets? Please share!