Poetry provides comfort and memories of a special mother

  • Mom and dad in their 20s. Both were World War II veterans.

    Mom and dad in their 20s. Both were World War II veterans. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted9/5/2020 6:00 AM

Not many people read poetry these days. And it's very hard for poets to get their poems published in 2020.

My dear husband, Baheej, loved poetry and was raised reading and reciting it. He read poetry every day right up to his death. Every morning. Sometimes in the afternoon, as well.


Oddly, my own mother liked poetry, which I think is unusual for someone who was raised on an Oklahoma wheat farm. She loved Robert Frost. She had never been to New England, but she read Frost to me in Minnesota, early in the morning. Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was a favorite of hers, and so it is of mine.

Well, it's not winter yet, but because of Labor Day, I am reminded of my dear parents and my childhood when Labor Day was a big holiday -- not just because of family barbecues but big parades downtown. I remember Dad at the grill in the backyard. Chicken, steaks, burgers. Watermelon. My brothers and sister all happy and around the yard. Both of my brothers are gone now.

So, for some reason, I'm thinking about Mom today. After Dad died, she used to come here to our place in Sleepy Hollow once or twice a year to visit. Once we went to the local farmers market and she bought a basket of costume jewelry from a lady with a table there. I remember she paid $25 for the basket containing all sorts of items. I remember her sitting in the guest bedroom sorting through it. She took what she wanted and gave the rest to me for our grandchildren to play "dress up." Somehow, this image stuck in my mind -- Mom sitting alone on the bed. She lived for five years after my dear father died.

Another time, we went up to lunch at the Geneva Inn in Wisconsin. There's a beautiful view of Geneva Lake from the dining room with its wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows. Delicious food. Mother had brought a bunch of Susan B. Anthony silver dollars with her from Denver. Those had just been released, and she handed them out to the waitresses and busboys, and to me, too. She had quite an unusual personality and was very generous.

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I had a strange experience a few days ago; my sister was asking me the address of our old family home in Minnesota. I thought I remembered the house number and I Googled it and thought I found it, photos and all. It's 110 years old, so it's historic by Minnesota standards. Turns out it was not our house, but my sister found the right house number and it still looks beautiful. It was fun to see it again. Unfortunately, they had put a pool in the part of the yard where we used to have our Labor Day barbecues. So it is …

The point is: Who knows what feelings will surface on Labor Day, or any special holidays that is loaded with memories of those we love who are no longer here with us -- our spouses, our parents, a child, a friend.

Me, I'll just recite some Robert Frost -- as I said, it's not winter yet but this particular poem captures some of the feelings I have on these special days without a special loved one, and without my dear Baheej:

Whose woods these are, I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer


To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

-- Robert Frost

Happy Labor Day, Mom and Dad, and everyone.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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