The book that mama handed to me one summer’s evening when the shadows were growing long and I was putting up a fuss about going to bed was “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” and it was full of simple poems written by Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who wrote “Treasure Island.” I loved the adventures of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver. I’d just about worn out an LP recording of the book. I owe both my love of poetry and my first career path (Pirate Queen) to Mr. Stevenson.
There were so many wonderful poems in the book! Mama read them to me, a couple at a time, until I had them memorized. Even when I became a proficient reader, I would open the large book with its sweet watercolor illustrations, and recite my favorites without looking at the words. My very favorite was titled, “At The Seaside,” and I loved it for its rhythm and meter and the way it made my little voice lilt and sway.
The silly little bit of the verse became my mantra! I taught it to brother, and I got into trouble for repeating it over and over in school when I was supposed to be thinking about Dick and Jane and why they ran everywhere.
My copy of “A Child’s Garden of Verses grew worn and the pages began to escape the string that bound them to the cover. One sad day, it was gone when I needed the comfort of my old friend and looked for it in its usual place on the bookshelf. Mama had tossed it in the middle of a cleaning fit. I was 14, but I mourned that book for the longest time.
A few weeks ago, hubby and I were wandering around a gift shop a couple of towns over, and I ambled into the children’s area. I browsed the itty-bitty tourist t-shirts and coloring books about the area wildlife and the history of Georgia, but nothing struck my fancy until I saw it- a copy of my lost book!
It was a paperback, and it was too thin, but I called hubby to me and frantically flipped through, looking for my favorite piece.
It wasn’t there. None of my favorites were. It was …abridged.
I put it back and sighed. It just wasn’t the same. But I have been reciting my sweet little poem to myself and whomever will stand still long enough to listen, ever since.
Pepper Ellis Hageback is a resident of LaGrange.