Sunday, 22 July 2012

Daughter You Must Never Say

 Lyrics and music by Marion Parsons © 2003

True story of my grandmother’s life, as recorded in her daughter Grace’s memoirs; see below for further notes.



Your grandpa, when he was around, he did the best he could
Drank up many a job and home till he left for good
Your grandma sewed and kept her store and worked for every dime
Anxious for the six of us and old before her time.
I helped to raise the little ones till I was fourteen
Then off to London I did go to cook and serve and clean
I wrote my mother every week, sent her most my pay
I’ll tell you, Grace, what she told me the day I went away:

    Daughter, you must never say what you will not do
    You cannot know what bitter things the Lord may ask of you
    The years unborn, the rose and thorn, are hidden in God’s hand
    The dreams you chase, the love you waste, are swept away like sand.

My first love was a vicar, for a time I wore his ring
But soon enough I was to learn the changes time will bring
The next was Walter Parsons, working on the railroad
I married him all on the quick before my belly showed.
And when men came from Canada to sign up engineers
Your father turned his vision west and brushed aside my fears
Took you and Lil and Doddy from the home I gave you birth
And left your sister Olive in the hallowed Bristol earth.

    Daughter, you must never say where you will not go
    You might not sleep where you awoke or harvest what you sow
    The years unborn, the rose and thorn, are hidden in God’s hand
    The dreams you chase, the love you waste, are swept away like sand.

The winters and the highways were far longer than I dreamed
And working on the Grand Trunk wasn’t all that it had seemed
He fed the engine fire on his breath and blood and arm
At last he had to give it up, and turned his hand to farm.
With Jack and Ena babies yet, we hoped for a new start
But that first cropping season took the last strength of his heart
I know that you remember, Grace, that dry September day
I sent you children to the barn and watched him where he lay.

    Daughter, you must never say what you cannot bear
    The good Lord counts your every tear and each lock of your hair
    The years unborn, the rose and thorn, are hidden in God’s hand
    The dreams you chase, the love you waste, are swept away like sand.

The Belleville ladies told me that I must do what I can
“Put those children in a home, find another man,”
My sister too was widowed by the bloody fields of France
She brought her child to join us and to find another chance.
The merchants and the lawyers would not hear a mother’s woes
We were living on Welsh rabbit and salvaging old clothes
I took in travelling preachers and I rented out the soil
And I held this house together with my daily prayers and toil.

    Daughter, you must never say what you will not do
    You cannot know what bitter things the Lord may ask of you
    The years unborn, the rose and thorn, are hidden in God’s hand
    The dreams you chase, the love you waste, are swept away like sand.


This is in the voice of my grandmother, Marion Parsons nee Uetze, speaking to her daughter my Aunt Grace; Jack in verse 3 was my father. In Grace's memoirs, (untitled, 1992), she passes on what her mother said about her childhood, emigration in 1914, and widowhood, and concludes by saying:

    "She told me years later never to say I would not do something because she said you never know what is before you and what you may be called to do."


The picture above is an old family photo of my grandmother at her house in Belleville, Ontario, with two of her daughters: Grace is the girl on the right.


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