Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

August 13, 2011

Column and poetry from the distant past

This is the time of the year when I take an editorially-approved month’s vacation, by publishing old columns. Here’s one that is as old as I can get: my very first column ever, written for a Pittsburgh weekly newspaper in October 1972. Not how I would do it today, perhaps, but then, what is?

After all, there is something to be said for hoarding, if it’s only for the joy, years later, of finding the stored-up evidence that, once upon a time, you were very young.

A couple of years ago, when we were packing for a move, I came across a notebook of my “Collected Works,” edited by the author at the age of 12.

It contained my entire literary production up to that time, consisting of 16 poems, five plays, and three short stories, plus an uncertain number of word sketches. (There appears to be a mistake in the index but then no editor is infallible.)

This nostalgic little volume knocks into a cocked hat the idea that a happy childhood is all fun and games for the incumbent.

Besides four that are downright frivolous, the poems can be divided into six rather upbeat ones, and six that are grimly pessimistic.

They deal with subjects as diverse as suicide and prayers, rainbows and pet dogs, automobiles and school.

One of the stories is a contemporary war story — World War ll, that is — and makes the point that people are human whether they live in Nazi Germany or the United States. One of the plays, in two very short acts, promises the 9-year-old heroine absolute fame and happiness because of her musical talent — sort of a cultured Horatio Alger line.

When you’re young, you don’t miss seeing the tragedies, the human conditions of life — they just look a lot simpler.

Here’s one of the mournful poems, written during a 1939 vacation to Nova Scotia, according to an editorial note that fails to explain the lugubrious tone. (Though we have learned from the movies that that was a very good year.)

Down by the fishing wharves

There is something that catches your heart,

To see fishers’ wives, waving goodbye,

Maybe forever to part.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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