To My Grown-Up Son Summary by Alice E. Chase

About the Poet: To my grown up son by Alice E. Chase was published in 1986. The poem’s narrator is a mother, who has risen to be the representative symbol of all mother figures, with her insightful reminiscing of her son’s childhood days, that subtly yet eloquently elucidates the regrets that is commonly felt by all once the child has grown up.  As the name suggests, the poem is a note to the grown up son, an apology letter itinerating all those activities the mother now wishes she had indulged into, without getting too caught up in performing the daily duties. To this date, the poem remains relatable, for its universal quality, having successfully captured the dilemma most mothers face when caught between acts of responsibilities and pleasure.

To My Grown-Up Son Summary by Alice E. Chase

1st Stanza:
My hands were busy through the day,
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to,
I didn’t have much time for you.

The mother, being the home maker and expected to play the role perfectly had a lot of daily chores to complete. So much so, she was “busy through the day” unaware of how the hours passed as the work she did were never ending. Being the sole one with the responsibility of maintaining the household, she did not have much time to “play”, in other words indulge in leisurely activities. The “little games” her son asked her to play were played by him alone, for she did not “have much time for” him, owing to the various chores she was engaged in.

2nd Stanza:

I’d wash your clothes; I’d sew and cook,
But when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me, please, to share your fun,
I’d say, “A little later, son.”

As the mother, she would do her duties to perfection. She would “wash” his clothes, sew them too, also “cook” meals to feed the family, along with various other household work, ensuring a smooth life for all. But when her son would bring his “picture book” to her amidst the day, want his mother to “share” his fun, do the activity together, she would inevitably answer “A little later”. Unable to take a break, and unable to leave the chores unattended, she missed out on spending some quality time with her child.

3rd Stanza:
I’d tuck you in all safe at night,
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door,
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.

At night she would tuck him in bed safely, hear his prayers and turn off the light to let him sleep after following the rituals. Tiptoeing to the door softly, in order to not disturb his sleep, she would leave the room to him and his dreams. Its only at present, when she looks back at those days and that time, that she wishes she had stayed a “minute more”, been a little while longer with him, spent a bit more time by his side.

4th Stanza:
For life is short, and years rush past,
A little boy grows up so fast,
No longer is he at your side,
His precious secrets to confide.

An universal truth is said at the beginning, “life is short, and years rush past”. Human beings have since time immemorial agreed on one fact that inspite of life seeming long at the beginning years, once you start living it, time tricks you, such that the years go by without one realizing where it went. The present becomes past in a matter of seconds, children grow up in the blink of an eye. Once they have grown up, they are no longer found by the mother’s side, they are no longer there to confide in her their “precious secrets”, for gone are those days.

5th Stanza:

The picture books are put away,
There are no children’s games to play,
No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear,
That all belongs to yesteryear.

Years later the mother takes a walk down the path of her son s childhood, reminiscing all those factors that adorned those days so beautifully. The picture books have been “put away” for they serve no purpose now, the games played by her son too have gotten lost with time for they are not indulged into anymore, the precious ritual of saying prayers at night followed by the ever sweet goodnight kiss have also been buried with time, as she realizes they all belong to the “yesteryears”. These fragrant memories sweetened her journey down the memory lane, letting  her revel in their pricelessness.

6th Stanza:

My hands once busy, now lie still,
The days are long and hard to fill,
I wish I might go back and do,
The little things you asked me to.

The mother’s hands were always full during that golden period of childhood, but now they “lie still” with no work to do. The hours would pass by in the blink of an eye when she had numerous chores to do, but now the hours are “hard to fill” and the days feel “long” for there isn’t anything to do. The contrast shows two opposite ways the mother spends her days, one filled with activity and the other with aplenty leisure. However, its in the end, that we hear the words coming from the depth of her heart, wishing she could go back to those days and do those “little things” her son asked her to do, instead of doing all her chores religiously.

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