The wolves howled; the wind sighed: I had a mother who read to me

Television didn’t interest me much when I was young–still doesn’t.  It couldn’t compete with the live entertainment available daily at my house: wolves howled; a spider spoke; and children discovered a magical wardrobe.

wolvesThe Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Narnia Chronicles, Charlotte’s Web  and many other books lived through my mother’s readings. Each page brought a new sight and sound as if the story were actually developing right there in our house. Characters even had distinctive voices, and if my mother deviated from them, my sister and I protested, which I’m sure was extremely annoying. But she never complained. We cried together when Charlotte died, and my sister and I spent many happy hours playing in my parent’s wardrobe, looking for an entrance to Narnia. lion

So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I’m extremely thankful that I had a mother who read to me. I can’t imagine a better gift than a lifelong love of books: “You may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be–I had a Mother who read to me.” (Read the poem in its entirety below).

ChalotteThe Reading Mother
by Strickland Gillilan*

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

From Your Daily Poem: Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954) was an American humorist, lecturer, and poet. Born in Ohio, Strickland started out as a journalist and worked for several different newspapers, including the Washington Post. While on staff at the Richmond Daily Palladium, he wrote a humorous poem about an Irish railroader that ended up in Life Magazine and led to swift national acclaim. Credited with writing the world’s shortest poem–“Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes”(subtitled “Fleas”): “Adam/Had ‘em.”–as well as one of the world’s most anthologized poems (this one), Strickland produced a huge body of work during his lifetime. He traveled the country for years, entertaining enthralled audiences with his witty novels, satirical essays, rollicking songs, and heartwarming poetry.

2 thoughts on “The wolves howled; the wind sighed: I had a mother who read to me

  1. Louise Russell May 8, 2014 / 11:04 am

    Love your post!


    • Erin May 8, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      Thanks, Lou! I’ll send you an update through email soon. I hope you’re doing well and enjoying spring!


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