Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oh, to be in England!

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

This is the first stanza of my grandmother's favorite Robert Browning poem. I never tired of hearing her quote it. Later on, she never tired of hearing me read it to her. For the last few months of her life, she was in a nursing home. Every day on my way home from work, I would stop and see her for a few minutes and help feed her dinner when she got weaker. As her health worsened and conversation became more difficult, I began reading to her each evening.

We would both relax more and I would tend to stay longer after I started reading to her. I would always start with poetry because she loved it. Before I would read anything else, I would read Oh To Be in England by Browning and then the daffodil poem by Wordsworth. They became so familiar to me I could quote them almost as well as she could. After those were finished I would wander through the book reading whatever took her fancy. Even when I began to read her The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, I would still preface it with those two poems. The night she died, I read them to her and again at her memorial service I managed to struggle through both poems because I was reading them for her not for the people that were there.

Now, of course, both poems bring tears to my eyes when I hear them or read them as they will be forever connected with some very sweet memories of my gran. Recently, the daffodil poem was read aloud on NPR as I listened to my radio on my way home from work. I cried the whole way home. This year Oh To Be in England has plagued me for months. For in a few days, I will be in England in April.

My husband and I are going over for a family wedding. My grandmother was an Englishwoman by birth. She loved her adopted country and considered it her home but England held part of her heart always as it does my father's and mine as well. This will be my sixth trip but only mark the second time I have been in England in April just like the poem.