I was born a bit late in my parents' lives, at least by the standards of the time, when forty was an
unusual age for a first-time mom.  And, since my dad was the youngest in his family, that meant
my paternal grandparents were considerably older than most.  So, when my mother returned to
work when I was two, and my Grandmother Jackson became my chief babysitter, by necessity, I
settled into a rather solitary early childhood.  It wasn't only Grandma Jackson's age that made it
very difficult for her to leave the house; she'd barely survived polio as a child and, later in life, it
was hard for her to go anywhere without assistance.  But two activities we could enjoy were
reading books and her telling stories of her ancestors in the pioneer days of Texas and my
grandfather's ancestors in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  As a result of this somewhat
cloistered childhood, I learned to read very early and thought of my books as both friends and
treasures.  My favorite book and constant companion was Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's
Garden of Verses."  Mr. Stevenson was, also, an only child who'd been compelled to spend much
of his early childhood at home--in his case, because of his fragile health--and his verses, filled
with fanciful tales of imagined adventures, stirred my own imagination and gifted me with an
enduring love of poetry.  The book holds a special place in my heart (I purchased a copy for my
little granddaughter, Sarah, when she was only a month old).  I still revisit my childhood friend
from time to time.  I thought perhaps today, you might like to come along with me.   
-- Nancy

~ ~ ~

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees you playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look, through the windows of this book,
Another child....far, far away, and in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all, by knocking on the windows, call
That child to hear you.  He intent is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look, nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say, he has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air that lingers in the garden there.

                                 -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Escape at Bedtime

The lights from the parlor and kitchen shone out
Through the blinds and the windows and bars;
And high overhead and all moving about,
There were thousands of millions of stars.

There ne'er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,
Nor of people in the church or park,
As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,
And that glittered and winked in the dark.

The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,
And the star of the sailor and Mars,
These shone in the sky, and the pail by the wall
Would be half full of water and stars.

They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,
And they soon hauled me back into bed;
But the glory kept shining bright in my eyes,
And the stars took their place in my head.

                               -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Foreign Lands

Up into the cherry tree who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands and looked abroad on foreign lands.
I saw the next door garden lie, adorned with flowers, before my eye,
And many pleasant places more that I had never seen before.
I saw the dimpling river pass and be the sky's blue looking-glass.

The dusty roads go up and down with people tramping in to town.
If I could find a higher tree, farther and farther I should see,
To where the grown-up river slips into the sea among the ships.
To where the roads on either hand lead onward into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five, and all the playthings come alive.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson
The Land of Story Books

At evening when the lamp is lit, around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing, and do not play at anything.

But there in the night, where none can spy all in my hunter's camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read til it is time to go to bed.

These are the hills, these are the woods, these are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink the roaring lions come to drink.

I see the others far away as if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout, around their party prowl about.

But when my nurse comes in for me, home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks at my dear land of story books.

                                      -- Robert Louis Stevenson
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Friday's Journal
Whispers - Home
Old New Orleans
Childhood Pleasures
The Lamplighter

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa is a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am older and can choose what I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!

                                  -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Some nights are magic nights,
Before you go to bed,
You hear the darling music
Go chiming in your head;
You look into the garden,
And through the misty grey
You see the trees all waiting
In a breathless kind of way.
All the stars are smiling;
They know that very soon
The fairies will come singing
From the land behind the moon.
If only you could keep awake
When Nurse puts out the light...
Anything might happen
On a truly magic night.

                    -- Rose Fyleman
The Unseen Playmate

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen
When children are happy or lonely or good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw;
But he's sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

He loves to be little, he hates to be big,
It is he who inhabits the caves that you dig;
It is he when you play with your soldiers of tin,
That sides with the army that never can win.

It is he when at night you go off to your bed,
Bids you go to sleep and not trouble your head,
For wherever they're lying, in cupboard or shelf,
It is he who will take care of your playthings himself!

                                          -- Robert Louis Stevenson