It began with my Mama; she was just a young girl

Who’d decided on teaching; she’d give it a whirl;

She went to college in Dayton and her degree was the best

She thought she would teach at a school in the West;

She went to Nebraska; her brother had gone there on a lark,

To a town founded by Mormons, that was called Cutler’s Park;

There her brother bought himself land and got him a bride,

And he tilled and he toiled with ingrained-farmer pride.

With a town comes a church and a school on the prairie,

And Mama was teacher and head of the library;

And a one-room classroom became Mama’s domain,

With grades one through eight and children to train.

Two of the students, were boys six and eight,

Willy and George, who never came late–

Their father delivered them right to the door,

And quickly departed but returned right at four.

Soon Mama learned that their mother had died

when Willie was born; Mama heard this and cried,

and soon she devised ways to give them a bit

of motherly love; she had lots of it.

Of course, it was Papa who’d fathered those boys

Seeing Mama each day became one of his joys,

But he kept to himself and she couldn’t know

of the love that he had but he knew of the flow;

and  it wasn’t until his sons spoke so much about

our good school marm” that he learned of her touch;

Eventually Mama and Papa were wed,

instead of bridesmaids, Willie & George stood in their stead,

And when I was born, I had two big brothers,

and never did know that Mama wasn’t their mother.


Papa was a man of very few words;

he believe in hard work and

got up with the birds;

His first wife was a girl

who’d run off from her church

but she died birthing Willie,

leaving Pa in the lurch.

So Pa ran his farm and his little boys too

with an iron fist–what else could he do?

A woman in town showed my Pa how to cook

and to help him along, she gave him a book,

Once a week he took their laundry to town,

to a Chinese laundry, the best one around,

The maidens in town had their eyes on my Pa,

But he only noticed the school marm, my Ma;

For she loved his children long before him,

And when she married, it wasn’t a whim,

She went on school teaching until I came along,

And then she stayed home, where she felt she belonged.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted January 10, 2012

Updated August 26, 2018


Sandra’s footnote:  This poem was the first in a series that I wrote in 2010 about an American Childhood; one of my Canadian girlfriends had all of the poems to An American Childhood printed in a booklet. Thank you, Doreen.

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