Once upon a time there were six little girls

Wedding photo of David Taylor and Celia Twyneham
Wedding photo of David Taylor and Celia Twyneham

Once upon a time there were six little girls
(all my stories start that way)
and we all lived happily giggling and squabbling
and jumping and wriggling
and running wild and running free
or hiding away in a hedge or a tree.
And our Daddy David was a country vicar
and he always said “Be kind”
and he was kind, he was always kind.
Now from the grave our dear dead Daddy
still reminds us to be kind
and we try, we do our best, we try.
As for mother Celia, every day
she pushed us out the door and whispered
“Go on! Have an adventure! Go!”
and decades dead she still says that
and we obey, it’s easy, it’s OK.
Six old women on the same seesaw
have a primer for life with just two rules
one to be and one to do
and when things start getting out of whack
the sing-song say-so of our parents
can ease us up or down or back.
I need my mother, I need my father
I am my mother, I am my father now.


PS I’m interested to know which lines resonate with you, if any. Maybe you are thinking about your own parents, and the messages that still ring in your ears…

Image and poem and voice by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0: that means feel free to share them, but always attribute them to me. Thanks!

39 thoughts on “Once upon a time there were six little girls

  1. This is so beautiful! Although I can’t point to a parent specifically that taught me each of those values, I feel that – both by word and by example – I was encourage down both paths. Be kind… have adventures. Although mine are gone too, I still hear those words.

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  2. Rachel, while the whole poem resonates with me, it’s the last line I most relate to: “I am my mother, I am my father, now.” How shaped we are by our parents, who down through the generations, continue to shape our children and their children,through us. I hear my parents voices often in my head, giving advice, reassurance and love, especially when I make the same parenting mistakes they did. They remind me I’m only human. I’m here to learn. My grandmother and great gran too. I was close to them both. Thanks for a lovely post.

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  3. That was lovely Rachel. Also lovely to hear your voice reading the poem. The line that stuck with me was “I miss my mother”. I am embarking on an adventure right now and I know my mum would have been right behind me. It would be lovely to share it with her.

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  4. I, too, “miss my mother” are the words resonating with me, though the .whole poem is delightful. She always listened to me. Even now when I reflect on what I learned from her, I think mostly it was the example she set. That, and allowing me to venture out independently into the world as I felt ready beginning at an early age with the boundaries extending correspondingly according to my years and demonstrated competence.

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  5. interesting poem but I want neither of my parents back – and I do not miss them at all…although that’s probably because that was more than 40 years ago they went!
    I seem to recall an older brother (20yrs older than me) and now gone as well…that they never expected me to reach any great age…so hadn’t prepared me for anything…
    I think they would be quite stunned to know I had survived, without their “help”…

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  6. The last line resonates with me just now. I am the eldest in my family now and am faced with one sibling at the terminal stage of cancer. The two other siblings and our extended family look to me for strength at this time as he is a popular member of the family.

    Though one sustains oneself with memories of carefree youth, when confronted with such tragedies it is difficult to handle realities.

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  7. My father died when I was pretty young (11), but I know he would have advocated for both the kind path and the adventure path. My mother did not stress either, focusing instead on the “be safe” or “be careful” path. It took me a long while, but I have chosen both adventure and kindness . . . and never looked back. Lovely post, thank you, Rachel!

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    1. I came from a mixture of be kind and be careful and have fun. I’m not sure they would have said I should be adventurous. That would have been potentially dangerous. Later in life that was added. I understand all these things now.

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  8. Ah, your sister took on the role of mother? She became your mother. I read that if your parents are bad parents, you should find a new set. Easier said than done, so you in that sense were lucky.

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  9. “she pushed us out the door and whispered
    “Go on! Have an adventure! Go!”
    and decades dead she still says that”
    Love these lines. I’d like to live by these lines. Good go of it, Rachel!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s the second line that got me. ‘All my stories start that way.’ Because you give us a real truth. All our stories start with ourselves and our families. And the end line – we realise our parents were not the Gods they once seemed, especially when we become parents, mentors, leaders. The challenge is to understand how important our role is, that these same emotions are borne in the little ones in our lives. What is could living be about?

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  11. OK, so my rule is not to follow immediately but really? How can I resist … I just know that I am going to love engaging with your blog – your voice really is a lovely voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It is hard to deny that we are likely to turn into our parents. I have been struggling for decades to escape from my mother’s influence. If I lived my life again I would (perhaps) rebel more successfully. I always looked up to my father, but I knew if ever (rarely) he wrote to me it would be to reprimand me for something. Usually for not following my mother’s example. But I have surprised myself wit how much I have thought about my father and his accomplishments since being awarded the MNZM. He was given the MBE and if I have come anywhere near what he did and was, then my pride is overflowing.

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    1. You were caught in a double bind: not fair. I am happy about the validation that arrived with this national honour. I feel so bad that I was unaware of it— belated congratulations! It is richly deserved for your services to seniors. So, one down, one to go. One day your feelings about your mother will change for the better.

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