Little Homer’s Slate

When I was expecting my second child, one of my husband’s aunts took me into her bedroom and opened the bottom drawer in her chest.

She tenderly took out a delicately-crocheted white baby blanket, wrapped in tissue paper.

Grandma. The Matriarch.

Grandma. The Matriarch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Our first baby died at two months.

“This blanket was never used.

“I want you to have it.”

She’d had two more children who were healthy and grown by then.

It had been more than twenty years, but her eyes still teared up telling me.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child.

It was my favorite baby blanket.

This poem tells a similar story.


Little Homer’s Slate

AFTER dear old grandma died,

Hunting through an oaken chest

In the attic, we espied

What repaid our childish quest;

‘Twas a homely little slate,

Seemingly of ancient date.

On its quaint and battered face

Was the picture of a cart,

Drawn with all that awkward grace

Which betokens childish art;

But what meant this legend, pray:

“Homer drew this yesterday?”

Mother recollected then

What the years were fain to hide–

She was but a baby when

Little Homer lived and died;

Forty years, so mother said,

Little Homer had been dead.

This one secret through those years

Grandma kept from all apart,

Hallowed by her lonely tears

And the breaking of her heart;

While each year that sped away

Seemed to her but yesterday.

So the homely little slate

Grandma’s baby’s fingers pressed,

To a memory consecrate,

Lieth in the oaken chest,

Where, unwilling we should know,

Grandma put it, years ago.


Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Thank you to for reprinting this poem.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers

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