Teachers, parents, siblings, mentors of every kind leave their mark upon us.  I was in the fifth grade at Isaac Newton Elementary school in Detroit when my teacher, Mrs. Chapman, had us memorize Ozymandias, a poem composed in 1818 by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Then we had to recite it to our classmates.

I walked to the front of the room and paused, a dramatic device storytellers employ to command the attention of their audience.  Actually, I was just trying not to throw up: it was my first public solo performance.  I was terrified, but it was also electrifying to be able to convey such a compelling story, such unforgettable imagery.   Not only did I not throw up, but I got an A.  And I never forgot that poem.

My mother used to recite poetry to us, like “Daffodils” by Wordsworth and “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.  Over the years I’ve shared Ozymandias and other gems (okay, sometimes I sing jingles from the TV commercials I watched as a kid), to a certain captive audience–my children.  Occasionally I recognize my own words reflected back to me from the mouths of my babes.  Sometimes to my chagrin, but most often to my surprise and delight.

My son Eli is home between teaching assignments…

…and tonight Bea returns from Stanford on spring break.  It will be so good for us all to be back together again.  My ritual, when the kids depart for school, is to tidy their rooms, change the sheets, and drop a tear or two as I make their rooms ready for them to come home to the next time…and they are always grateful.

The last time Eli left I was tempted to hire a bulldozer…

…but it’s like spending a little quiet time with that absent child.

Last night, in a burst of inspired procrastination (he was tired of reorganizing his own room), Eli decided to surprise Bea by cleaning her room, and not just the sort of tidying I do, but a thorough reorganization, including the mountain of books stacked haphazardly in the corner, that pile of her things parked just inside the door, not to mention the surprise found in a teacup discovered under a pile of stuff on her desk.  It’s either a science experiment or a strange new life form.  It took Eli over five hours.  He found so many new ways and places to shelve books that they almost fit on her shelves now!

But nothing comes without a price tag.  In fact, after Eli was finished, everything had a tag on it.  Oh, yes.  He had made his mark.

I love this one…

But my absolute favorite touch was the greeting on the door.

I howled with laughter. “Oh, good,” said Eli. “I didn’t know if you’d get the reference.”  “Do I get the reference?” I asked, launching into a recitation of Ozymandias.  “How did you think of it?”  He said he remembered it from all the times I’d recited it.  Of course I  ran to find my book of Shelley…

When I opened it up in search of the poem, I saw that someone else had made her mark.  Upon the book…


…and maybe even upon me.

The poetry and the stories we pass from generation to generation enrich and prepare us for the struggles we will face, within ourselves and in the outside world.  I believe they will outlast the Mighty and their monuments to themselves, and, I hope, their wars.

Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Mrs. Chapman.  Thank you, son.  And welcome home, Bea!

All images and words (except for Mr. Shelley’s, of course) copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections.

8 thoughts on “Look On My Works, Ye Mighty

  1. Another delightful journey into the intricacies and details of your life, Naomi. Loved this! Ozymandias was one of my favorites in school, although I never memorized it (kudos to you and your teacher for making you learn it by heart!). What a wonderful brother Bea has. I bet she was both surprised and grateful. 🙂

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  2. Yes, I agree that this is one of your best. I am sitting and smiling about all the things I threw away when my young children would visit grandma. They never mentioned them upon their return to a tidier room. Of course that had to stop at a certain age (both mine and theirs).

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  3. Wonderful, Naomi! I have a similar relationship “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” and “Four Quartets”. The other day some told me the title of dissertation and I told her that she had taken the title from a line in “Burnt Norton”. She was floored. I gather no one else had ever caught that – shocking to me

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  4. Wonderful, Naomi! I have a similar relationship “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” and “Four Quartets”. The other day some told me the title of dissertation and I told her that she had taken the title from a line in “Burnt Norton”. She was floored. I gather no one else had ever caught that – shocking to me.

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  5. You’ve done such a wonderful job of encouraging your kids to have one another’s backs. So sweet. (By the way – not that you don’t already know this – your son has such lovely eyes!)

    Thank you for sharing another of you memorable posts, Naomi.

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