Swinging on the porch swing in the gathering darkness ... only the monotonous sound of the night bugs ... tree frogs singing a sleepy good-night ... an old song runs through the mind....
"Once in the dear, dead days beyond recall.
When on the world the mists begin to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng,
Low to our hearts love sang an old sweet song."
"Just a song at twilight"
When the lights are low,
And the flickering shadows
Softly come and go.
Though the heart be weary,
Sad, the day, and long,
Still to us at twilight
Comes Love's old song.
Comes Love's old sweet song.
"Even today, we hear Love's song of yore,
Deep in our hearts, it dwells forever more.
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day.
So till the end, when life's dim shadows fall
Love will be found the sweetest song of all."
Those long-ago children played and romped all night in my dreams. Young and eager, full of energy, they ran and laughed. The little girls played hopscotch and jump rope. You can hear their childish voices reciting, "Johnny crossed the ocean, Johnny crossed the sea, Johnny broke the milk bottle and laid it on to me, I told Maw and Maw told Paw, and poor old Johnny got H-O-T!" The rope was then turned very fast.
Some of the smaller girls built playhouses -- down in the edge of the woods and under the schoolhouse porch. They'd brought cast-off dishes and odds and ends from home, and stocked their playhouse with fine accessories. The bigger boys played "Longtown" and "Prisoner's Base," and nearly all of them played their marble games. You could hear cries of "Knucks down!" or "You're fudgin'" as they played "Keeps" or "Four Holes and a Peewee." Even the older girls played marble.
The schoolyard was bare of grass; the ground packed down hard by hundreds of running feet. The children picked handfuls of huge beechnuts and stored them in paper cups fashioned from notebook paper. When the bell rang to call them back to classes, they cry "Books are taking up!" and run back up the steps to their classrooms.
The children gathered together for another grade school reunion, although at this time, they no longer ran. Some were on canes and limped along with hip or knee replacements; some were assisted by others. Hair had turned gray, and in some cases was missing altogether. Their youthful faces were hidden by wrinkles and the marks of old age. Still, their enthusiasm was evident as they greeted one another, and their conversation spirited and joyful.
Some of those long-ago children have left this earthly playground, and are now sporting in Elysian Fields. As time goes on, more of us will join them in their play in one eternal reunion.
Yes, time has wrought a change. The old school house has been long gone now, and a house sits in its place. Yet the landmarks are almost the same. The huge beech trees that provided the biggest beechnuts I have ever seen were cut down long ago. The big rock down over the bank, where we girls retreated to tell each other our childish secrets, is now overgrown with brush and briers. That was the place where Jewel Beth and I hid our love notes.
The rock where we "jumped the hump" while sleigh riding in the snow is still there, but it seems so small now. Trees and underbrush cover the hillside where the boys once had their "mud slide" and came home so coated with mud that their mothers almost disowned them. Many generations of long-ago children went to school there, and memories abound.
I found a poem that my cousin Evelyne McLaughlin sent me some time ago, and it seems appropriate. The only thing -- it's more like 70 years ago!
Forty Years Ago
From the McGuffey Reader
"I've wandered to the village, Tom,
I've sat beneath the tree,
Upon the schoolhouse playground
That sheltered you and me;
But none were left to greet me, Tom
And few are left to know
Who played with me upon the green
Just forty years ago.
The grass was just as green, Tom
Barefooted boys at play
Were sporting, just as we did then
With spirits just as gay.
But the master sleeps upon the hill