Memories from Mom

“Grandma, were there any camp traditions that you loved that have been discontinued?”

Sarah was interviewing my mom again last night.  This time she was recording it for a retrospective that the camp is doing.  They’re trying to get oldtimers to share memories.

“Well, that’s an interesting question.  And you’re probably going to be surprised by my answer.  One thing I really liked at camp that I know they don’t do anymore is hold chapel services on Sundays.  You know, I was raised in a pretty secular household.  We didn’t really go to any kind of services, but at camp, I really liked “Chapel.”  

“We would sit outside at the boys’ camp and we always sang really pretty hymns.  I don’t really remember the words, but I always thought they sounded beautiful…of course not because of yours truly.  I never could carry a tune.”

“That sounds nice, Grandma.  Was there anything else you remember about it?”

“Well, I remember that it was a beautiful spot.  We sat in a small clearing in the shade of giant pine trees.  It was really very peaceful. I do remember one sermon.  Actually, it’s funny, I saw my friend Carol a few years back…well, a few years, it was probably 15 years ago, and we both remembered that same sermon.”

“Do you remember what they said?”

“Well, it was fifty, no sixty, no seventy-five years ago, so I don’t really remember all the words, but I do remember the idea.  It was a young counselor from the boys’ camp who gave the sermon.  He told the story of one of the boys at camp when he was a camper, and the boy had a uhh, what do you call it… a cloth thing…a sampler, that’s it.  He had a sampler that he hung over his bunk.  The boy was very well-liked.  He always treated everyone well.  He was very kind and courteous.  Anyway, he had this sampler, and it said, “I am third.”  That’s all it said. The other boys in the cabin had no idea what it meant, but this counselor who was telling the story says that at the end of their summer together, when they were packing up, he asked the boy what that sampler meant when it said, “I am third.”  Now this very kind and considerate boy said that it was something he always wanted to remember.  He said it meant this, ‘God is first, the other guy is second, and I am third.’  

“I was only 15 years old, and, as I said, I was not really religious, but I’ve always remembered that chapel service.”


I’ve been watching other slicers experiment with golden shovel poems, where they take a line of text from a story or poem and use those words as the first words or last words of each of the new poem’s lines.  I decided to give it a try.  It was going to be a separate exercise, but when I noticed that the line I’d pulled had the word “third” in it, it seemed to connect well with story the above. Thanks to fellow slicer, Fran for encouraging me to try this form.

I Am Third 

A golden shovel poem inspired by a line from Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The boy’s motto, “I am

Third,” the 

Key to his kindness.

She stowed away what the counselor

Said as he shared

A sermon in nature’s chapel, a

Sip of sublime in a grove

Of pines.  Wise words outlasting

Old traditions, echo forward from a bygone


Note:  The service my mom recalled took place in 1945, when my mom was 15 years old.  She’s nearing 91, now.  I am quite certain that in the 1970s when football star, Gale Sayers made “I am Third” more famous as the title of his autobiography, my mom was not aware.

8 thoughts on “Memories from Mom

  1. This is wonderful. I loved your mother’s memory – and how you shared it via Sarah. I loved how that one moment has stood out for so long and with such clarity. And then the added bonus of the Golden Shovel – it works so well! The “Sip of sublime in a grove/ of pines” – what great lines. Just… wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could not love this more! I love your Mom and her sharp memory (she could hang out with my 94 year old neighbor, also sharp as a tack!). I love that Sarah is capturing these stories and you are sharing them. The sermon she remembers is is poignant and the boy who gave that sermon – wise! Then, you bring it all together with your own wise golden shovel poem…brilliantly done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed how this dropped the reader into a moment with dialogue, then the writer stepped in and moved in direction of a response to other posts, a response with poetry, and then the whole piece ends with a “Note:”
    This is such an interesting and complex post rich with voice and story and innovative writing. Thank you for having the energy to post such a wonderful piece on Day 30.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In our One Book letter I think we wrote a line about stories that stick with us…that’s what I thought of reading your mom’s words. 75 years is a long time to remember…I think it makes it all the more meaningful. I’m glad you have these memories captured.

    Liked by 1 person

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