Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Marching Orders

I might have mentioned that I’m one of six kiddos. We grew up next door to Dad’s parents, and because Grandmother didn’t drive whenever we went anywhere, she usually went with us, as well as our friends and any cousins who were staying with the grandparents at that time.

And yes, we all fit in one car. (It was before the day of seatbelts and airbags.) Getting everyone out the door and into the car to get anywhere on time (including church) was quite a feat.

When Dad got ready to leave, he’d come into the kitchen or livingroom where we usually waited and give us our marching orders. (Start shooing us toward the car.)

Sometimes, while we grabbed Bibles and purses and diaper bags and bottles, he’d try to rush us. But rather than yelling, “Let’s go. LET’S GO!” he started quoting a poem.

After a while, he just had to say the first line, and we scooted.

“Let’s be up and doing!”

Sometimes he’d quote more of the poem.

“Let’s be up and doing
with a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
learn to labor and to wait.”

There was one more verse he’d toss out at the end from time to time. I didn’t learn until I had Internet that I’d heard it wrong and it was out of order. Here’s what I heard–

“It’s not joy and not sorrow
that’s our destiny our way,
but to know that each tomorrow
finds us further than today.”

“Burma Shave.” 🙂

It’s from a Longfellow poem Dad  had to learn in high school called, “Psalm of Life.” He quoted the last (9th) stanza first and the 3rd stanza, which I learned wrong, last. Here’s the real 3rd stanza–

“Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.”

Burma Shave isn’t part of the poem. 😛

I won’t put the entire poem here. (Booooring.) But if you’d like to read it, here’s the link. 

He learned other poems that are lots more exciting, but what’s interesting is that he remembers it sixty odd years later.

Here’s my favorite of Dad’s poems.

“Comanches over the hill top! Six trappers on the plain.”

Anyone (who isn’t part of my flock of siblings) know that one?