Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grandma, Blackberries and Poetry

Last Friday and Saturday, while in North Carolina, I visited my grandmother in Pinehurst. She doesn’t live there anymore, but in an assisted living place near my uncle’s in Western North Carolina. He’d brought her down for the weekend which allowed my daughter and me to drive up to visit with the two of them. We had a great visit and I could tell my grandma was excited being back in her own home. My grandmother’s house has also been a welcome retreat for me and for many others, for she has always been a gracious host.

My grandmother came back home looking for a book of poetry. Finding the book, she was upset that it didn’t have the poem she was looking for. She told me about making a booklet of poems when she was in the seventh grade. The assignment was to copy poems they liked and to draw pictures to illustrate them. The two poems she remembered are Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” and one titled “The House Beside the Road.” She illustrated the first with a tree, the second with a house. Grandma asked if I knew the poem, but I didn’t. Then I got an idea. Pulling out my Blackberry, which I’d gotten a couple months ago, I googled the poem. I came up with a poem by Scarlett Treat and read it to my Grandmother. She didn’t think that was the one because it was sad and about a house falling down. The poem she remembered talked about how to live a life. With some further checking, I learned that Ms. Treat was born while my father was in elementary school, making it highly unlikely my grandmother was reading her poetry in the seventh grade. So I did some more googling and came up with the poem, “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911). As I read aloud, my grandmother smiled and said, “Yes, that’s it.” She was also shocked and just couldn’t understand how I was able to find it on my cell phone…

In many ways, this poem describes my grandmother, who has sought to be a friend to all. Here is the poem:

The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat
Nor hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from
their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
-Sam Walter Foss


  1. I love how you were able to find her poem at the touch of a few buttons. Wow!

    The words are amazing. I love the part, "Let me live in a house by the side of the road
    where the race of men go by...
    the men who are good and the men who are bad,
    As good and as bad as I."

    It speaks to me.

  2. I remember that poem; my mom read it to me. Isn't technology wonderful?!

  3. Stuff like that always makes me wonder what kind of technology will mystify me when I am old and gray.

  4. What Ed said.

    And Scarlet too.

    Well done for grandma, your Blackberry and to you.

  5. I'm glad you had an enjoyable time. It seems that we only appreciate the time spent with our elders when we ourselves begin to grasp our own mortality. Alas, many times, it's then too late to try to assimilate all the wisdom our elders wish to give to us.


    As for your grandmother's seventh grade assignment, my dad had one of those self-made poetry scrapbooks as well, from his one room schoolhouse days. However, he had to memorize each poem and recite it. To his dying day, he could still recite ten or so McGuffy reader poems of many, many stanzas with nary a mistake.


    (BTW, word verification is "Deming," as in the town in Southern New Mexico. I can't go anywhere with out something taunting me to get to the desert.)

  6. This made me smile.

    When my Grandma was still alive, my Dad was spending a morning with her, and took a picture. He told her he could take that picture of her, and send it to my brother and I in seconds. She couldn't grasp it, but found it cool watching him do it anyway.

  7. That's beautiful- how glad you must feel to share your grandmother's home and time with her. And to help bring memories back... :)

  8. A great story. It shows how powerful those early memories are. Glad you were able to find it for her.

  9. What a beautiful poem, Sage. I'm glad that you could find it for your grandmother.

    Grannies are great, aren't they?

  10. Scarlett and I share similar emotions from this wonderful post. This trip was simply magical and I am certain your grandmother was delighted in what you brought to her! Wonderful! Just wonderful!!

  11. Yeah, I would be surprised if you could find it on your phone too. :-) My brother-in-law and I were just commiserating about how people have no clue how to search the internet. I thought for sure you would fall into that group. Surprise, surprise. :-)

    I can't believe you still have a grandmother...

  12. By the way, I see where the blue eyes come from and the propensity to play them up by wearing clothing in the blue family as well. ;-)

  13. This is a great poem, Sage. Enjoyed reading the write.

  14. A wonderful poem. Good that you had a good time.
    The new header is really awesome.

  15. Your grand mother is beautiful!

    And you shared a beautiful poem. I had forgotten all about it.


  16. You have me wondering about what my grandparents would've thought about cell phones. And thinking how hard it must be to not be able to live in your home anymore.

    Enjoyed the poem as well. A wonderful sentiment. I really should read more poetry.

  17. I can understand why your grandmother enjoyed that poem. It is lovely. I hope you and your daughter had a wonderful visit with your grandmother.

    Technology is a great thing, and the ability to find information by cell phone internet service is just marvelous.

  18. Like the poem. Love the story
    My mother found it amazing that I could call her and read off the names of the streets in the Bronx she lived in when first married