This Book is Perfect for Mother’s Day

This book has warmed me for so long. It’s Love You Forever, by Roger Knapp.

The tale is simple, being a children’s book. It starts with the babyhood of the main character and goes to his adulthood, while every stage of his life is being sung to by his mother.

The refrain she sings goes like this: “I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

It sometimes makes me cry if I think the main character, whom the author takes through every stage of his life—toddlerhood, adolescence, and adulthood—is unsympathetic toward his mother, or at least incognizant. But if I slip into this mindset I have to tell myself: It’s not that he doesn’t care about her; it’s that he simply lives a messy or reckless life.

The author takes great care to emphasize that the boy growing up likes messy and loud things: The boy trashes the toilet, chews bubble gum, leaves fingerprints on the counter, listens to hard-core rock music, and all around becomes a walking trash can with his laissez-faire attitude.

I think the main point of this story is that the son reciprocates his mother’s love through osmosis; because she first loved him, he loves her back.

He doesn’t at first reciprocate her love, whether verbally or physically. He is not a bad kid at all; but when she is old and decrepit, he comes to her house, tiptoes up her stairs (as she did to him every night of every year) and sings to her: “I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.”

I sometimes have tears reading these lines. They are so true and so happy. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, mother-figures, and women who’ve been like mothers to those they’ve blessed.

Shakespeare, the Unromantic Poet

One would think the master of all poetry would have given his dame a greater sense of beauty, but I was shocked to find this piece of literature terribly unsympathetic and realistic. He gives her not just a bad review, but paints her in such a contrast to the ideal woman that she seems more like a pig than a swan.

But the real motivation for Shakespeare’s sonnet is to contradict and poke fun at his contemporary Petrarch, an Italian poet who created seemingly unrealistically beautiful portrayals of women such as his usual common thread, “My woman’s eyes are like the stars.” I don’t think there’s anything embarrassing with these portrayals, but it’s terribly funny to compare these brilliant poets and their ingenious portrayals of women.

Hence read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” and see whether you agree with his method of flattery:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare    As any she belied with false compare.

Would any man, in his right mind, repeat this devastatingly funny poem to his mistress? I think not.

As I near the wedding of my brother, I think this poem is a friendly kick in the gut to Petrarch, who would always say the sweetest things about his woman in his sonnets.

It would be a painfully humorous and sarcastic joke to repeat this aloud. I believe my brother would do a better job in complimenting his lover than Shakespeare to his.

Still, it is a humorous topic to show to young literary scholars, who should probably never repeat this to their lovers, but only in healthy jest.

Leave it on your shelf, Shakespeare. I know you created many wonderful pieces, and this sonnet in particular is reserved for literary spite than romantic gestures.

Adieu, Shakespeare.