Those Winter Sundays
By Robert E. Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
"Hayden's reminiscence of his own father dutifully stoking the morning fire [argues] that any sacrifice for love is an elevating one," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "The fact that Hayden's father -- black like Hayden -- also 'polished my good shoes,' enacting the shoeshine's traditionally servile role, makes the poem even more moving. The interesting biographical side note is, of course, that Hayden's biological parents gave him up to foster parents, but whether the 'memory' is an orphan's longing or a fragment of an actual memory, the power of the poem is the same. The final phrase about 'love's austere and lonely offices' has a grandeur and poise that elevate the duty to the level of religious ritual, as does the 14-line form of this sonnet, albeit in free verse.
We left for the beach this morning after a stop at my parents' house because they had driven off already and left behind not only the fishing rods but my father's tennis racket, which, considering we're staying in a community renowned for its tennis facilities, would have been a crisis! The traffic was slow across Kent Island, but otherwise pretty good for heading to the Eastern Shore in August. We stopped for lunch at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, where we saw raptors being rehabilitated as well as wooden blinds for observing eagles and ospreys. There was also a wildflower garden with butterflies and a bunny.
The unit where we're staying hadn't been cleaned from the previous week yet when we arrived, so we went for a walk with the kids to see if we could find turtles and frogs in the pond behind our condo. We saw both baby and adult snapping turtles, plus we chatted with the Goldmans, who were fishing off the dock (it's all catch-and-release here). For dinner, we went into Bethany Beach to eat at the Penguin Diner -- Adam lobbied for that one -- then took a walk on the beach for half an hour before going to hear the Beatles tribute band Fabmania. When leaving the boardwalk, we bumped into the younger sister of vertigo66 and her family, so we may take all the kids to play mini golf or something together later in the week!
In addition to the constructed blinds for viewing birds, this willow tree provided shade and cover for watching wild birds.
We also saw many wild birds -- gulls and cormorants -- on the lower struts of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge...
...which leads to Maryland's Eastern Shore.
We are staying in Bethany Beach, however, which is in Delaware between Rehoboth and Fenwick Island.
This is part of the view from our porch, which also encompasses a large fountain that creates rainbows out of sunlight.
And this is the underwater snapping turtle that was trying to eat both the fish and the bait for the fish brought by my parents' friends.
Fabmania, fine Beatles imitators, played many of their early hits on the Bethany Beach boardwalk.
Sunday I want to go back to the beach in the morning and see whether we see dolphins as well as the pelicans, gulls, and sand crabs that were around in the evening. The kids want to swim in the big pool here, and we may make one of our annual pilgrimages to the shipwreck museum, Viking Golf, the Seaside Country Store or the Irish shop in Rehoboth.