Friday, November 20, 2009

what has become of our little boy blue . . .

For whatever reason, I don't remember much of my early years. But every now again, something will jog my muzzy brain and a childhood memory will clearly surface. I experienced such a jogging yesterday as I was cutting up old books to recycle into journals.

The book I'd chosen was filled with old classic poems and bits of prose--and I was carefully extracting samples to put in the journal. Some I recognized, others I picked because of interesting titles or subject matter. When I got to page 15, I was startled by the lyrics of a favorite childhood song--one I used to beg my mother to sing for me.

Little Boy Blue (Eugene Field, 1911)

The little toy dog is covered with dust, but sturdy and staunch he stands.
And the little toy soldier is red with rust and his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new and the soldier passing fair--
And that was the time that our little Boy Blue kissed them and put them there.

"Now don't you go 'til I come," he said. "And don't you make any noise!"
So toddling off to his trundle bed, he dreamt of his pretty toys.
And as he was dreaming an angel song awakened our little Boy Blue
Oh the years are many, the years are long--but the little toy friends are true.
Ay, faithful to little Boy Blue they stand, each in the same old place
Awaiting the touch of his little hand, the smile of his little face.
And they wonder, as waiting these long year through in the dust of that little chair
What has become of our little Boy Blue since he kissed them and put them there?

I experienced a sort of emotional deja' vu as I read the old poem. The bittersweet ache returned, as sure as if I were leaning on the old piano, listening to my mother sing the melancholy tune. I wiped away a tear as I remembered the love/hate relationship I'd had with the song--loving the loyal bravery of the abandoned toys and hating the harsh reality that stole the little boy away.
Reading the poem yesterday, the mother in me wept for loss of little boy blue. (How ironic that there's an engraving of Little Boy Blue on Jonah's headstone!) But as I read the last stanza, I realized that my young heart ached more over the bewilderment of the toys than the child's premature death. Something in me had resonated deeply with their sense of abandonment.
I don't know when or how the fear of abandonment took such deep root in my life--if there was a particular event, it remains locked up with my shadowy childhood memories. But I think those abandoned toys helped me be brave through my early years as I wondered what had become of the ones who loved me and then quietly left me . . . either emotionally or physically.
Interesting, isn't it, the little things that will jog such grand epiphanies?
And, no, I didn't put that poem back in the journal I made. I may just have to frame it or tuck it away in some extra special spot . . .