July 14th 1915

July 14th 1915

My mother was born on Bastille Day,
July 14th, 1915;
Her mum and dad had met at church,
In the choir of St John the Baptist and St Helen,
Up on Church Hill, Wroughton,
Just below the ridgeway, high above Swindon.

I never met my grand-father, he died before my birth,
A sensitive man, he loved his daughter so much,
That he cried his eyes out at her wedding in 1938,
And had to go home early.
But I have his hymnbook even now,
Inscribed ‘H.E. Wheeler, Elcombe’ –
He lived in that small hamlet,
Walking into Swindon, to work in the railway factory.

I have no memories of my grand-mother either:
It must have been a difficult year, 1951, for mum,
My birth, her mother’s death, dad back from Burma,
In body if not in mind,
And on the reserve list for Korea.

But on the day of her birth,
Edward Thomas wrote ‘For These’,
His reasons for enlisting for the front,
And as my mother came into the world,
So Thomas passed his medical,
‘Stripped, weighed, measured and made to hop around the room on each foot’
(Edward Thomas From Addlestrop to Arras A Biography
Jean Moorcroft Wilson);
And as my grandparents celebrated,
So Helen Thomas, believing her husband had gone to London for work,
Was in shock at the news: “No, no, no,” ‘was all I could say;’ “not that.”

I made my mum a collage of Thomas’ poem for her birthday:
The third stanza became her later life:
‘A garden I need never go beyond,
Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one
Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun:
A spring, a brook’s bend, or at least a pond.’

I think of this every year in July and August,
And now, as I write these lines,
Waiting for the rain to stop,
I see mum and dad now,
Sitting by the pond in late summer,
Sunflowers high above their heads,
Waving me goodbye.