As the youngest of Mom’s nine children, I remember very well how busy Mom stayed with the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and all the stuff that went into raising a houseful of kids.

We lived in a small town in the middle of America and knew all of our neighbors as we were known. It was a time of making do with what one had and being very self-sufficient. Mom dosed us for all sorts of ailments and only sent us to the doctor for broken bones or stitches. She knew exactly how to cook the wild game my brothers brought home from the woods and however she fixed it we ate it and thought it delicious.

Our big old house was right in the middle of the little town and the hill it sat on was covered with playing children. Mom would come to the front porch and call us in when it was mealtime or if she wanted us for a particular reason.  And as we gathered around the table Mom might look around and ask where a particular child was if he was missing from the pack. Or she would look around and ask, “Are all the children in?” Sometimes one of us would remind her that one of the boys was staying overnight with a friend or that one of us was on the farm with our grandparents.

Hinshaw House

When bedtime came, Mom always checked to be sure all the children were in and accounted for. That is why I thought of her again today when I read this poem. We kids had this read at her funeral and then I read it at my brother Robert’s funeral and it was read at my brother John’s funeral and I hope will be read at mine. You see, I’m the last of Mom’s kids left in this world and when I’m gone all the children will really be in again. Mom is going to like that.

 

I think oft times as night draws nigh
Of the big old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when the night at last came down
Hushing the merry din,
Mother would look around and ask,
“Are all the children in?”

Tis many and many a year since then,
And the house on the hill
No longer echoes to children’s feet
And the yard is still, so still.
But I see it all, as the shadows creep,
And though many years have been
Since then, I can hear mother ask,
“Are all the children in?”

I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short, earthly day,
When we say good-by to the world outside
All tired with our childish play,
When we step out into that other land
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask, just as of old,
“Are all the children in?”

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all the mothers who read this.

Hinshaw House C 2015