“A Hidden Legacy—26 Years Later,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, 59
It had been five years since my father’s death, and I sat looking at the cardboard box of scrapbooks which had just come into my possession. I remembered sitting on his lap as a child, carefully turning the yellow pages while he read to me from his favorite authors. Later, I had asked to use this poem or that paragraph to illustrate a point in my church talks or school papers. Once he jokingly remarked that he would will the books to me, since I was the only one in the family who had ever made use of them. Now they were mine.
I touched the alligator-looking binders of both treasured volumes as I lifted them gently from the box. My one regret was that my own father’s words were not recorded within the covers—only the cherished words of men and women he had respected.
Then I noticed a third book.
An older, cloth-covered, three-holed binder lay at the bottom of the box. It was obviously another scrapbook, but one which evoked no memories at all. Putting the two familiar volumes aside, I curiously picked up this odd member of the trio and opened it.
The first page was an untitled poem dated 1925. My father had never written poetry. I was puzzled and thumbed through the next few pages till I saw another poem, this one attributed to a classmate at Cyprus High School. My mother had attended Cyprus, not Dad. I scarcely dared to believe what I had in my hands. Then I saw the words to a song, with this note in the margin: “My favorite song as a little girl.” Tears filled my eyes and I found it impossible to focus them on the next three pages. But suddenly I saw very clearly, typed in the top left-hand corner of one page, “To Maryruth 1950.” The poem was entitled “To a Young Plant” and had been written to me when I was a child of six. My mother, dead now some twenty-six years, had left me a legacy of poetry I had known nothing about.
My memory flashed back to the night in graduate school when, after fasting, I had felt inspired to write my own first serious poem. It had been about her. I had so often longed to know my mother as an adult, to appreciate her as a friend. And now, at last, I had her own words as a treasured part of my legacy—this cherished gift passed unknowingly from mother to daughter through the pages of a long-forgotten journal.
To Maryruth—April 1950
To a Young Plant
My little braided wonder
With your candid, asking eyes,
And cheeks like magic moth wings,
And words increasing wise,
Six Aprils have I loved you,
Discovering and learning;
A fragile plant expanding,
To warmth and sunlight turning.
Hungry, impatient daughter,
Root deep in me and flourish;
Your purpose is to flower,
And mine it is to nourish.
The scrapbook contained many of her poems, thoughts, and even a talk she gave after my father joined the Church and they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. How grateful I am that long before cassette recordings were possible, and even before the keeping of journals was encouraged, my mother had felt the need and exercised her gift to write poetry for her children. How grateful I am for its preservation through all these years; and now, after this experience, how much deeper an understanding I have of the need to keep my own journal and to record my own poetry, thoughts, and talks for my son. Whether engraved on golden plates or scribbled on aging yellow paper, records are a source of immeasurable joy to those who discover and read them!