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?


Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

4 thoughts on “Marching Orders

  1. Susan, I always enjoy reading your blog. The ice cream was delicious and I almost overdosed on it. Not good for someone who is supposed to be on a diet.

    • You’re so sweet, Judy. Glad you enjoyed the ice cream. I made some, but not nearly enough. I need one like yours! (Watch for one for me when you’re out garage saling, please!)
      As long as you don’t make the ice cream all the time, it won’t destroy your diet. It’ll just dent it a little bit. 🙂 At least that’s what I keep telling myself. LOL!

  2. Carol’s a poet and I didn’t even know it!!!

    If he’s like me…memorizing was easy…way back then…now, not soooo much sooooo!

    • He’s still amazing, Bea. He remembers a lot of stuff that I don’t even try to put in my brain.
      I think the memory is like any other muscle–I guess that’d be the brain. LOL. The more you use it, the easier it is. So when y’all were in school memorizing all those long, boring poems, you were good at it.

      I tried to memorize two scriptures a month last year with Sister Lisa and Beth Moore. I made it through the entire year, but it was a struggle.

I'm so glad you dropped by my Small Town World! Hope you'll leave a comment. I really enjoy hearing from you!

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