An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Children's Hour

Children grow up. Who knew? And as we are about to send yet another son off to college, I am missing these days ...

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
That is known as the Children's Hour.

This is the first stanza of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) called "The Children's Hour". It's a tender poem about Longfellow's three daughters who visit him in his study at the end of the day. When I was in the sixth grade I had to memorize all ten stanzas, which is probably why it popped into my head the other day. You see, we have a "children's hour", too, and it goes like this:

Between the dark and the daylight
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes mayhem in the day's occupations
That is known as the Pre-Dinner Hour.

You know, that period in the late afternoon when everything seems to happen at once. One son is complaining about having to read "The Island of the Blue Dolphins". The other son is humming while doing his math homework. I'm on the phone because THE WHOLE WORLD seems to call during this time. My toddler, oh! my goodness! He wants to do school work, too, and a coloring book alone just won't suffice. He wants a science book, and his own spiral notebook, and an erasable pen because, you see, he thinks he's in 7th grade. He's also recently given up his naps and anything can set him off at any given moment.

No, our "children's hour" is a little different from Longfellow's, but the sentiment is still the same. In a couple seconds of peace I observe my oldest son stop humming as he concentrates on a problem, my three-year-old draw a smiley face in his "science notebook", and my middle son bent over his book, finger twirling his cowlick and his legs swinging. There is the comforting aroma of minestrone bubbling on the stove, and the autumn daylight is just "beginning to lower".

I stand there and take it all in. Quietly I whisper the next to the last stanza of Longfellow's poem, which says it all.

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

File:Longfellow children's hour.jpg
Portrait of the three daughters of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The original still hangs in the dining room of Longfellow's home in Cambridge, MA. The image was used during the children's lifetimes to illustrate the poem "The Children's Hour," which refers to "grave Alice" (top), "laughing Allegra" (right), and "Edith with golden hair" (left).


onthegomom said...

OH I loved your version of the poem! How true, how true!!!!

Karen said...

I love it! How wonderful that you can appreciate them amidst the evening chaos that is the American family.

:o) mg said...

That is so ironic... this weekend (at the Irish Dance Competition) I saw a little girl who fit the "grave Alice" role perfectly. The name even popped into my head... that was my mother-in-law's favorite poem. Just before she died, she got my father-in-law to xerox a copy out of her poetry book to give to #1.

PAOLA said...

Ciao Maria,
che brava che sei a scrivere! Posso immaginare la scena PERFETTAMENTE! BRAVA! bacioni

Lisa said...

Oh, what lovely musings! This is one of our favorite poems, too! So glad you visited at my blog so I could find your blog! &:o)

Kathryn said...

Great breakdown! I just read that poem to my crew the other night and loved their "take" on what it meant. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!


My Semblance of Sanity said...

I call itthe witching hour- that pre-dinner chaos.
But, like you, I more often than not find a precious moment thrown in - kind of like a reminder from God that all is GOOD!

Leanne said...

Love it. The pre-dinner hour here is known as the arsenic hour. You made that one minute in your place sound lovely.

Do you have any ideas how we can stretch that minute out a bit?

Lol. Happy Thanksgiving!

suburbancorrespondent said...

My toddler too! How many 2-year-olds do you know who scream, "Give me my math book!"? And, as we can't let her nap or she won't fall asleep before 10:00, she is a total emotional mess from 4:30 until 6:30, when we (happily) put her to bed.

Love the poem.