My Hymn to the Old Things

My high school yearbook

This is my hymn to the old things,
the things that held life, shimmering and pure. 

This is to the things that simply were: 

The playground where the fourth grade bully harassed me
until I wrestled him to the ground and sat on him. 

The visit from church when an elder sat across from my wife and me, 
when the minister asked us, “How is your walk with the Lord?” 
and I, awkward as the elder, answered, “Fine,” 
and the conversation turned to work and crops and the cookies we were eating. 

The high school sophomore’s house where I was invited to a birthday dance 
where I cautiously slow danced with a girl I had just met and,
in spite of our clothing, felt the coolness of her breast against my chest. 

This is to the things that I have kept: 

The red leather-bound Jerusalem Bible stuffed with thirty-year old notes 
from when I sought life’s secrets in its pages. 

The stack of spiral notebooks holding a thousand thoughts that apparently were mine. 

The high school yearbook I recovered before my fifty year class reunion 
to study names below monochrome faces so young and mysterious that I yearned to live in their magical world. 

This is to the things that have kept their edge: 

The dream of my mother soon after she died,
where she just turned up in the kitchen 

and I could see that her death was a simple mistake,
and I woke up and knew there was no mistake. 

Our school bus, the day it was parked with all of us inside waiting to leave school, 
when the lady who drove us home each day screamed,
“That kid just got killed!” 

as the one student who was allowed to cross between the buses 
because he lived just across the school yard  
passed in front of our bus and was driven over
by a mother who was there to pick up her child. 

This is to the things that seemed so new: 

The house up the street built to the newest look, now housing its third owner and decades out of style.

The little sunburst locust in front of our house that I planted thirty-five years ago, 
now with a fifteen inch thick trunk and spreading shade over half the front lawn. 

And this is to the things of permanent wonder: 

The dimes I counted out at Mr. Hansen’s store
in exchange for a Mars Bar and a Super Man comic book. 

The hand-me-down bicycle with fat tires and coaster brakes
that I rode to Jimmy’s place

where we threw wooden darts with fins made of real feathers
at circles on the barn door. 

The ice skates I laced up at the edge of the frozen pond
where I skated holding hands with my girlfriend, 

and then we took our skates off and sat in the car and kissed. 

This is my hymn to the old things,
the things that held life, sacred and pure, 

that animate my being, even when I don’t remember. 


Please share a memory of your own that is attached to a particular object or place.

If you like this piece, have a look at:
When Every Day Was Magic
Young Gods in a Tree House

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My Hymn to the Old Things — 6 Comments

  1. That was very exceptional Rod. Thanks so much!

    The memory your piece triggered is the double b flat tuba I carried in band and orchestra my last two years of High School. It became such a part of me that over the years I became a part of it.
    Meaning that it has turned up in my dreams several times. With 3 fingers resting lightly on the top of its three valves I would press the right ones every time. What lovely music I helped make with famous bands over the years.

    • Thanks Keith.Your tuba memory is wonderful. I must admit I have no fond memories related to music – although I do vaguely remember my hapless fingering of the holes in the top of a “Tonette.”

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