When I taught you
at eight to ride
A bicycle, loping along
Beside you; As you wobbled away
On two round wheels
My own mouth rounding
In surprise when you pulled
Ahead down the curved
Path of the park; I kept waiting
For the thud; Of your crash as I
Sprinted to catch up,
While you grew
Smaller, more breakable
For your life, screaming
With laughter, The hair flapping
Behind you like a; Handkerchief waving
Notes and Understanding
- Notice that the poem describes a past incident because the poet uses the past tense: teach (present), taught (past).
- Perhaps you ask how old the daughter was. You should guess that she was a child because she used to ride a bicycle.
- Why did the mother stand next to her? Because her daughter was still young. She was teaching her how to ride a bicycle, and of course, she was so close to her lest she came to any harm. So the mother was protecting her daughter and keeping an eye on her. (Poem: To a Daughter Leaving Home)
- And then what happened? The daughter started to go down the road at a faster pace. The mother was ANXIOUS (WORRIED). How do we know that? From the lines: “my own mouth rounding/ in surprise” and she as also “waiting / for the thud/ of (her daughter’s) crash). In other words, she expected her daughter to get off the bicycle or lose her balance and fall off. This means that she would hurt herself. So naturally, the mother hurried up and tried to catch up with her daughter to make sure that was all right. But the distance between mother and daughter grew, and the daughter became smaller and more breakable (i.e., likely to be hurt).
- However, you should be aware of the fact that the daughter was not afraid. She was moving forward with confidence and assurance. She was energetic and full of life, and contrary to the mother’s expectations and in spite of her young age, she was willing to take this incident that happened during her early childhood as an opportunity for her to test herself out and see if she could prepare herself when she grew up and it was time for her to leave her mother and home for this future task.
– Notice the final image of the hair ‘flapping’ like a handkerchief waving. It is a positive image that reinforces the message that the daughter was willing to take up the challenge and prove that she could leave home with confidence when the time for that journey came.
- The poem’s message: This poem that revolves around the mother-daughter relationship sends the message that while parents are concerned with their children’s safety and are entrusted with their care and protection, they should give them the kind of independence that prepares them even during their childhood for their eventual departure and journey away from home. So while they stay under their parents’ eyes when they are young, they need to gradually develop confidence so that they are ready when they are old enough for the journey away from home.
- Difficult words: loping along, wobbled away, sprinted, pumping, flapping. Try to guess their meaning from the context. Do you think some of the above words are onomatopoeic? In other words, you can guess their meaning from the way they sound. Look up their meaning only after you guess it to see if you are accurate or not.
Finally, the tone of the poem. Do you think it is nostalgic meaning that the mother is thinking about the good old times she enjoyed when her daughter was young and was under her full care and protection? Do you think it is a sad or happy poem and why? Also from whose perspective is the poem told? (To a Daughter Leaving Home)
What is the theme of marks by Linda Pastan? What is the tone of the poem marks by Linda Pastan? What is the extended metaphor used in Linda Pastan’s marks? Why did Linda Pastan write marks?