It was the twenty-second of December, back in Eighteen-fifty-three,
A cold and blustery winter day, as far as you could see,
I was helping mama in the kitchen, fixing soup for midday dinner,
I was slicing mama’s home-made bread, with her jam it was a winner.
Pa was shoeing horses in the barn, an inside chore,
He loved his work completely, never thought it was a bore.
When mama said “What’s keeping Pa? He should be done by now–
You check ‘n see if he’s having problems with that onery sow”–
I took her shawl to wrap around my head and dashed outside–
the icy air made me gasp and tears came to my eyes.
Inside the barn, I shouted out, but did not hear Pa call;
I searched and found him lying, cold and still inside a stall;
I threw a blanket over him, then ran to get my ma.
She sent me to the neighbor’s and men came to move my pa.
They put him in the bedroom and one rode to town for doc;
They made good time and hurried and arrived at one O’clock.
My pa had suffered from a stroke and could not speak or walk,
He could not stand or dress himself –he could not even talk.
So it fell upon my shoulders to take care of all the farm;
Folks said it wasn’t sightly for a girl; my mama said “No harm“;
Come spring, the neighbor’s sons returned; they plowed and planted seed–
Ma told them she would share our crops; they said there was no need.
I worked along those husky lads and soon one caught my eye;
I thought that I would marry him, someday by-and-by…
But for now there’s ma and me, taking care of pa;
It was a year of hardship, the worst we ever saw.
My mother aged, taking care of him in every way,
While I grew strong and brown-skinned tending to the farm all day,
But came a morning when my ma could not get pa to wake,
He died while she was sleeping; I thought her heart would break.
And after Pa was buried, ma sat in her chair all day,
On the front porch, watching, as the hours whiled away,
Until one day she brightened and she called for me to see–
“there’s papa, out there waiting” that’s what she said to me,
And that night she joined him; she wanted me to know,
that where he went, she’d follow; she couldn’t wait to go.
And yes, I wed the neighbor’s son, as soon as it was fittin’
He got me and the farm, and both of us were smitten;
Our first child was a little boy–we named him after Pa,
And when I had a little girl, we named her after ma.
Sandra Lee Smith
Originally written in 2012 in memory of my life partner, Robert, who passed away September 22, 2011. I wanted to write something to go with my American Childhood series and this felt just right.
Updated August, 28, 2018