My Ever-Gentle Grandmother

Sep 21, 2023 | 0 comments

Today, while looking “one last time” (or so I always think) for family papers that should be added to the Espy Archive at the Washington State Research Center in Tacoma, I ran across this poem in my grandmother’s distinctive Victorian script:

Somebody didn’t wipe the dishes dry!
How do I know?  Because I saw them cry.

Yes, crying as they sat upon the shelves —
I saw them and they couldn’t help themselves.

They made no noise; each plate was in its place,
But, oh, two tears were on the platter’s face!
Oh, don’t you think a little girl is mean
Whose dishes cry because they’re not wiped clean?

Drawing by Helen Medora Richardson, 1897

How I wish I’d run across this poem before my mother died.  Was she the little girl that it was meant for?  Or was it for one of her three older sisters?  What a lovely way to gently reprimand a child!  I can’t help but wonder if there were other such notes posted now and then as my mother and her siblings were growing up.

I also came across some of my grandmother’s drawings — done in 1887 when she was eight or nine years old.  She and her friend Mary Wallace spent many hours together making paper dolls, writing and illustrating small storybooks, and drawing pictures of their daily activities.  The drawing I used here, though done many years before she married and had children of her own, seems to go perfectly with the “Poem of Reprimand” — my name for it; I’m sure my grandmother would never have been so directly critical!

 

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