Slow Book Land: Share Your Cake and Eat it, Too

The first poem I loved enough to memorize came from The Childcraft Encyclopedia. The books had arrived at our house as if by magic, along with the grown-ups’ World Book.  Each volume wore a different colored band on its spine and all of them were tucked snugly into their own special bookcase.  The snug case, the fancy bindings, the slick paper, the colored pictures, the gold lettering.  OMG.  They sat in the living room, calling, calling.  They mesmerized, hypnotized.  I couldn’t get enough, especially of the volume ‘Poems and Rhymes.’  I remember it had the Carl Sandburg fog and little cat feet poem, which was paired with a drawing of a little boat dock in the fog.  I knew even then that Sandburg’s was a fine, real poem.  But I just couldn’t help it.  Here’s the one I loved:

I had a little tea party

This afternoon at three.

‘Twas very small-

Three guests in all-

Just I, myself and me.


Myself ate up the sandwiches,

While I drank up the tea;

‘Twas also I

Who ate the pie

And passed the cake to me.

I couldn’t get over how great this poem was: the rollicking music, the rhyme of “me” and “tea,” “I” and “pie,” and the change-up from three beats to two in the lines ending “small” and “all.”   But even more than the music, I loved how one child could become three of the most delightful friends.  How delicious to enjoy one’s own company so, and eat all the treats and drink all the tea and still feel as though one had not been a hog, because a tea party is ever-so civilized.  Like a polite guest, you’d shared.

Me: “Oh, hello.  May I offer you a sandwich?

Myself: “Oh yes, that would be lovely.  Thank you.”

Me Again: “Oh, you’re quite welcome.  Cake?”

I: “Oh, thank you.  I do believe I will.”

I loved this poem so much, I had to have it.  So I got to work.  I read a line out loud, closed my eyes and repeated it, read the next line and repeated it, looked at the ceiling and repeated them both together, moved on to the third.  And then the fourth.  If I forgot and had to peek, I made myself start all over.   Line by line, rhyme by rhyme, I learned that poem by heart.  What a lovely phrase, “by heart.”  And that’s exactly what it is, a heart poem.  A by-my-heart poem.   Ready whenever the occasion calls.  It may not be a great poem, but I’ll never lose it.

This week in Slow Book land, browse a shelf.  Find a poem that sings to you.  Learn it by heart.  Then gather together your closest friends, recite your poem, and discover the magic of the tea party poem: you give something away, and you still have it.  And when the recitation is over, be sure to pass some cake and eat some pie and drink up all the tea.


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8 Responses to “Slow Book Land: Share Your Cake and Eat it, Too”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Thank you, Tracy for a lovely gift of sweet memories. I love that poem and it was the first one I learned because of you. I never knew how you found it or how it came to be part of the family, so thank you for sharing this memory. For the rest of the day, my face is going to smile thinking of the hours we sat in the shag-carpeted the living room snacking on those delicious volumes and finding treasures like ‘I had a little tea party”.

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Thanks, Shannon. Childcraft rocked. Do you remember any of the other volumes? There’s a bunch of them on e-Bay, but none of our vintage. I’ll keep my eyes peeled–would love to get hold of ‘Poems and Rhymes.’ From that volume, the Sandburg poem and “I Had a Little Tea Party” are the only two I remember–surely there are others!

      • Tara Seeley Says:

        I once found a whole set of Childcraft in a used book store in Wichita (ten years ago, Charla’s wedding weekend) and almost succumbed to the temptation to have them…Keep looking!

  2. Lydia Says:

    Tracy, this is such a wonderful and cozy poem. It’s nice to stop for a moment and do something that makes you feel happy. I really enjoyed reading your experience and understanding of the poem,as well. Thank you~

  3. Annick Says:

    Tracy – you’re an inspiration!!!

    For no reason
    I start skipping like a child.

    For no reason
    I turn into a leaf
    That is carried so high
    I kiss the Sun’s mouth
    And dissolve.

    For no reason
    A thousand birds
    Choose my head for a conference table,
    Start passing their
    Cups of wine
    And their wild songbooks all around.

    For every reason in existence
    I begin to eternally,
    To eternally laugh and love!
    When I turn into a leaf
    And start dancing,
    I run to kiss our beautiful Friend

    I dissolve in the Truth
    That I Am.


    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Well, this beats the little tea party all to hell. i should say that I did eventually move on to other things (“Jabberwocky,” Rilke, Yeats)–but I have to say Hafiz takes the cake (maybe every piece).

  4. alb Says:

    ebook is forever (or was that diamonds??!!)

    I if not totally almost agree with your point of view, but just for the sake of argument will say that comparing an ebook to a book is a bad comparison (remember lbs of water and mineral to make an ebook and a book), because ebook is a library, you (or me) just buy it once while it would cost 2 lbs of water for every book I buy which would be a lot otherwise …

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