I may have mentioned before that my first language was German and my parents immigrated to the U.S. when I was a baby. My first books were collections of German fairy tales and nursery rhymes. One of my first “literary” memories is finding a poem in one of those books, memorizing it, and performing it for my parents for a special birthday. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to see if I could resurrect that gem. I can’t seem to find the book itself now, but this is the poem, as best as I can remember it (or spell it in German).
Wenn Vater oder Mutter Geburtstag haben
Was sol ich dir sagen? Was sol ich dir geben?
Ich hab nur ein kleines, ein junges Leben
Ich hab ein Herz das denkt und schpricht
Ich hab dich lieb, mehr weiss ich nicht!
Just saying that poem out loud makes me feel 8 years old again!
Here’s a close approximation in English (although not nearly as rhythmic and musical):
If Father or Mother have a birthday
What should I say? What gift should I give?
I’m only a little, young life
I have a heart that thinks and speaks
I love you so much, that’s all I know.
I realized recently that the roots for my obsession with poetry are buried deep. For me, poetry was part of the music of learning English, too. It was the rhyme and rhythm of Mother Goose and playground chants in English that helped me learn to speak—and then read—my new language. Something to keep in mind when we think non-English speakers can’t “handle” poetry til they are fluent in English.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. My own Mom is in the hospital having a difficult recovery after two surgeries. I’ve been worried crazy about her, but I think she’s slowly mending. If you’re a praying person, please add “Ingrid” to your list. Thanks!
Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2010. All rights reserved.
Image credit: me as a kindergartener in Germany!