Mama Remembered: “Mysteries of Anatomy”

At the very end of Mama’s book, I Remember, she shared some songs and poetry which she had memorized.  Here is a cute one that is also recorded in her father’s journal, Duncan’s Ledger:

I learned this from my dad when I was a little girl.

Mysteries of Anatomy

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee, or a key to a lock of his hair?

Can his eyes be called an academy, because there are pupils there?

Is the crown of his head where jewels are found?

Who travels the bridge of his nose?

If he wanted to shingle the roof of his mouth, would he use the nails on the end of his toes?

Can he sit in the shade of the palm of his hand, or beat on the drum of his ear?

Can the calf of his leg eat the corn off his toe?

If so, why not grown corn on his ear?

Can the crook of his arm be sent to jail?

If so, just what did he do?

How can he sharpen his shoulder blades?

I’ll be darned if I know, do you?

When Mama was a little girl, her family was very poor and moved alot so they didn’t have many books and seldom lived close enough to visit a library.  So they memorized things like this.  She says, I learned this from my dad when I was a little girl. I can picture her father going over and over this with her to help her memorize it.  And I imagine as they did that, she might have questioned him about the meaning of some of it.  “Where is the cap of my knee?” or “What is the bridge of my nose?” or giggled at the idea of corn growing in her ear!

And this is a tradition that Mama passed down to her children too.  I had many more books than she had had, but she still spent time reciting poems like this to me and encouraging me to memorize the nursery rhymes and songs in my books.

One on one time spent with a child, helping them memorize something that they may be able to recall and smile about  for the rest of their lives — and possibly teach to their children.  The need for this way of learning may have been replaced by many other ways for children to learn today, but it is a source of great memories for those of us who experienced it.

8 Responses to Mama Remembered: “Mysteries of Anatomy”

  1. C says:

    I remember my Grandmother, Gertie, singing songs. They were almost always ballads, with a story to tell, and almost always tinged with sadness.

    I think this was just part of their entertainment, and I wish I remembered them better. I need to research and see if I can find any that I recognize from her.

    Also, she did these rhyme things: “H a huckle, B a buckle, huckleberry pie…” and “M I crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter crooked letter, I, humpback humpback, I, Mississippi!”

    As I child, I loved it when she did these.

  2. C. Beth says:

    That is so neat! There aren’t a lot of oral traditions passed down anymore in America.

  3. Linda says:

    Several years ago, a friend and I challenged each other to memorize the sixth chapter of the book of Romans in the Bible. To help herself with the memorization, she made up a little tune in her head and sang the words of scripture. It wasn’t long until she AND her three small children had the entire chapter memorized. She wasn’t TRYING to get the kids to do the memory work. She would just go around the house singing the scripture, and they picked up on it. Children are just naturally drawn to music and rhyme, I think; and memorization comes fairly easily to their young, uncluttered brains. By the way, I LOVE your grandfather’s poem.

  4. Sandra says:

    C — Isn’t interesting that we remember so much of that rhyming stuff from so long ago? I think Linda is right — our little minds were very receptive to it. I also think memorization was much more important to people in previous generations because that was a way to store information. So maybe one of the purposes of all the rhymes and songs was to exercise the “memorization muscle”?!

    Beth — You are right, and even though I can see that it’s no longer as necessary, I think it’s sad.

    Linda — What a great story about your friend. And I bet her kids will be able to sing Romans:6 for the rest of their lives — what a wonderful legacy.

  5. I never heard alot of these! The sharing between the family members created time with each other, I love that!

  6. carlahoag says:

    I agree that it’s sad that memorization is no longer considered important by the education establishment. I wonder if homeschoolers are emphasizing it more?

    My mother (at 95 and with Alzheimer’s) can still recite some of the poetry she learned as a child. She’s legally blind and hasn’t been able to read for the last 3 or 4 years, so what’s in her memory is about all that she has. On her good days she sings hymns. One of the best things we do when we go visit her is to sing hymns together, usually in the meeting/dining room. It’s very impromptu and as my husband plays the piano, others come in and join us.

    Your grandfather’s poem is a very clever play on words. I’m going to save it and teach it to my grandsons. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  7. Sandra says:

    Chrissy — Simpler, harder times. But there were good times, like this, too. :)

    Carla — It makes me so happy that you would consider teaching this old poem to your grandsons! Because I have gotten to know you some, I am confident that you are making many great memories for them. :)

  8. [...] little behind reading my favorite blogs. I was doing a little catch-up yesterday when I discovered this poem on Sandra’s “Add Humor to Faith…mix [...]

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