The New Domesticity: Old Enough to Fly
With a riot of brown ringlets cascading over her shoulders and gossamer wings fixed firmly in place, my 4-year-old pixie stood before friends and family, chanting the flower fairy lines she had committed to memory:
Where do fairy babies lie,
Till they’re old enough to fly?
Here’s a likely place, I think:
‘Mid these flowers blue and pink!
She continued on, delighting us with the story of Cicely Mary Barker’s “Forget-Me-Not Fairy.” Each fairy-ballerina in our homespun troupe shared a poem: it seemed only natural that dancing and poetry should go hand-in-hand for this year-end recital. (Incidentally, we referred to our girls’ ballet class as “The Beckoning Parlour Dance Troupe.” Rehearsals took place at a friend’s home, and the girls were regularly distracted by their brothers, who were invariably—and enviably—wrestling in the parlour.)
True to the poem’s title, my daughter never forgot those lines. Indeed, our whole family committed them to memory, yet this was due more to hilarity than intention. My daughter was called upon to again share her poem, this time at a small piano recital. The recitation was captured on video, providing years of entertainment: the pixie-turned-pianist was recovering from a cold and therefore a little stuffy . . . but most memorable was the line containing an unexpected belch: “All alone—but no, you’re not, (burp!) You could never be forgot . . .” Indeed, that moment could never “be forgot.”
This pixie, now an adult, recently accompanied me on a walk around our neighborhood wetlands trail. Apples hung low on old orchard trees, and she caught their heady fragrance on the wind. We reveled in that cider-scented moment, recalling Helen Hunt Jackson’s lines,
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
It was a fleeting moment, but one in which I was grateful to have a line of poetry from which to draw. We laughed as I continued with my favorite couplet, “From dewy lanes at morning the grapes’ sweet odors rise,” my voice bellowing down the path (and no doubt startling the girl we met around the bend). The familiar lines, like the “forget-me-not” stanza, were comforting: comforting in their rhythm, comforting in the way they described a scene so much more eloquently than prose ever could, comforting in the way they had woven their language into the fabric of our family life. This past year, I’ve been drawn to such comfort. Ironically, I had started 2020 with the ambitious plan to read “Les Miserables.” I got about halfway through when, in March, our world turned topsy-turvy.
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