Over 22 years ago, when my daughter was born, my mother gave me a sheet of paper I still treasure.
On it she had handwritten two passages from a book of poems about children.
You may recognise the verses – they begin:
“The sleep that flits on baby’s eyes – does anybody know from where it comes?”
“When I bring to you coloured toys, my child…”
Both evocative pieces, they filled my heart with such strong emotion, as they perfectly encompassed the feelings of a brand new parent toward their precious charge. As the inexperienced mum of a tiny and needy newborn, I had not had time to read (or so I thought) and these words also reminded me that books were (and still are) my friends. So, over night-time feeds and rare, snatched moments of quiet I would read. Even a few paragraphs or a couple of verses of poetry could be so fulfilling.
Eight years later, when my son was born, she gave me the poetry anthology, and although it contained many beautiful lines, none compared with those two verses, which I now knew were Song 61 and Song 62 from
Gitanjali, by Rabindrath Tagore. Neither of us had heard of it before, and over the years it was forgotten.
Then, a few weeks ago, Mum showed me a copy of “Gitanjali” that she had bought from a charity shop. She’d not yet had a chance to read it, but had read the Foreword by W B Yeats and just had to bring it home. I began to flick through and it fell open on the two pages containing Song 61 and Song 62, facing each other.
Yes, a coincidence. Probably the previous owner of the book had also specially loved these two songs, and why not? But now that my daughter has a child of her own, it just felt like the completion of a circle.
So, on her birthday, I will give her gifts that she needs or wants or that I think will make her smile. And I will give her the gift of poetry. Song 61 and Song 62, of course. But what else? What other poem would you give a modern parent? I’d like to include something more prosaic and very real. Something that says “Yes, that child is a beautiful gift, but so are you and you matter.”