Monday, March 3, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - My Grandmother's Poem

When we were growing up, my brother, Arthur, and I used to each teasingly "claim" one of our grandmothers as our own.  Our paternal grandmother, Anna Green Yarborough, was, "MY grandma", and our mother's mother was "his".  I'm not sure how or why this started, but I did have an extremely close relationship with my Grandma Yarborough, and my Grandma Thomas was always a bit more of a mystery woman to me, even though she lived closer to us, in Norfolk.  I've always been aware of the many traits I inherited from my father's mother, but, as time goes on, I'm finding that there's quite a bit of my Grandma Thomas in me, too! 

I've been writing poetry since I was in junior high school, but for the most part, I've kept my writings private. (The exception has been the many motivational pieces I've written for students to perform.) Several years ago, while exploring some of the items left in the dresser drawer in the room my grandmother once occupied at my mom's house, I came across this poem.  I was delighted, yet baffled.  Did my grandmother really write this?  I never, ever would have even imagined her penning a poem, especially not something as fabulously insightful as this one.  I just didn't know this side of my grandmother at all!

I remember getting on the computer and searching for the lines of the poem, to see if perhaps someone else had authored it.  Nothing came up. I even did it again, before starting this post.  Still, nothing.  I recently learned that this poem was read at my grandmother's funeral in 1986, but I have no memory of hearing it, then.  The person who mentioned it to me referred to it as, "that beautiful poem that was written by your grandmother".  I think that with that, along with the inscription and dedication which follow the poem, it's time for me to accept what I found so hard to believe.  My "brother's grandmother" (lol) was a poet!

It is with enormous pride that I present the poem, "You Say I'm Growing Old?", written by Mary Davis Hill Thomas, January 24, 1960, and dedicated to her children, Howell, (Mary)Anne, and Jane.

You Say I'm Growing Old?
You tell me I'm glowing? I tell you that's not so
The house" I live in may be worn out, 
That of course I know.
It's been in use a long, long while, it's weathered many a gale
I'm really not surprised you think it's getting somewhat frail.

The color on the roof is changing, the windows getting dim,
The walls are a bit transparent and looking rather thin.
The foundation not so steady as once it used to be,
My "house" is getting shaky, but my "house" isn't me.

My few short years can't make me old, I feel I'm in my youth.
Eternity lies just ahead, a life of joy and truth.
I'm going to live forever there, as life will go on - it's grand.
You tell me I'm getting old? You just don't understand.

The dweller in my little "house" is young and bright and gay,
Just starting on a life to last throughout eternal day.
You only see the outside, which is all that most folks see.
You tell me I'm getting old? You mixed my "house" with me.

As Mary Thomas 
                                               feel(s) about herself this January 24, 1960
                                                                                        Mary H. Thomas

On the back of the original was this inscription:

To my children Howell, Anne, and Jane
Sunday afternoon, January 24th
reading poetry at Y.W.C.A. 927 Park Ave. Norfolk
compared my present life and my future home
ove on the other side of this sheet of paper
                                             Mary Thomas

I'm so proud of my grandmother for writing this phenomenal poem, and just for being the strong, beautiful woman that she was.  I know so much more about her, and the life she lived, because of my research, and I am grateful to have been chosen to share her story, and that of my other ancestors, with the world.

To learn more about my grandmother, Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas, click here (for a post about both of my grandmothers) and here, here, and here for a 3-part series I wrote about the losses my Grandma Thomas experienced in her life.

Thanks for reading!

The poem, "You Say I'm Growing Old" was written in 1960 by Mary Thomas, and is the express property of her descendants.  It is not to be used or copied without crediting the author.


  1. That was touching. Maybe especially as my roof has also changed color and the rest is getting rather rattlie.

  2. The poem is perfect for this aging baby boomer. Insightful!

  3. How special to find this poem written by your grandmother. And I'm at that point in life that I can truly understand it.

  4. Ah, so am I, Mav; so am I. Thanks for your comment!