A few weeks ago, while going through some of my father's old papers, I came across a neatly-folded, blue onion-skin letter postmarked the Vatican, September 25, 1950. The letter was from a family friend, a priest, who was expressing his congratulations and regret that he had not been able to attend the wedding of my parents. How many times, Father Cavicchi wrote, did we talk about the tree which is planted and watered and tendered for the purpose of getting flowers in spring? Father continued to compare marriage to a flower which unfolds in freedom and selflessness; he closed with heartfelt blessings for my father and mother.
All Father's blessings came true, I told my sister, and was immediately reminded of a poem by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I first read the poem in a slim volume tucked in a hefty stack of biographies and religious books kept on a side table in the living room. I remember talking about the poem with my mother but I don't recall it having the same meaning to me as it did to her or as it does to me today.
What follows are excerpts from Anne Morrow's tribute to her parents.
(on a photograph of my mother and father just married)
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
My parents, my children:
Who are you, standing there
In an old photograph— young married pair
I never saw before, yet see again...
I who gaze at you and recognize
The budding gestures that were soon to be
My cradle and my home, my trees, my skies,
I am your child, staring at you with eyes
Of love and grief for parents who have died;
But also with omniscience born of time,
Seeing your unlined faces, dreams untried,
Your tentativeness and your brave attack,
I am no longer daughter gazing back;
I am your mother, watching far ahead...
I long to comfort you for all you two
In time to come will meet and suffer through,
To answer with a hindsight-given truth
The questions in those wondering eyes of youth.
I long to tell you, starting on your quest,
You'll do it all, you know, you'll meet the test.
Mother compassionate and child bereft
I am; the past and present, wisdom and innocence,
Fused by one flicker of a camera lens
Some stranger snapped in laughter as he left
More than a half century ago—
My children, my parents.
Today would have been my parents' 66th wedding anniversary. Father Cavicchi would be proud. I'm proud. With tenderness, love, and longing, I whisper to the heavens. You did it all. You met the test.