COME, MY SONS
ANNA LEE WALTERS
Come, my sons. Sit by my side and warm my hands with yours. For I fill with pride when one of you is near. Your presence is reassuring.
I have many things to say to each one of you. Lately, I have been preoccupied with thoughts that sneak into my mind. It is for this reason that I have called you by name, interrupting your play, insisting that you come to me.
My sons, you are my greatest offering to a people where many are weary from misused and unused lives. All that you are, all that you will be, it is I who have cleared the path.
You are yet boys. Soon you will be men. And I must set you free. You are my sons, but I do not know you. I can dream great dreams for you, but my dreams are not our dreams. Your life is not my life. Yours’ may end today in ways I have not dared to think. I know this.
My sons, because my voice is clear and steady, do not think I feel nothing. Because my eyes are free from tears, do not think my heart is. Just know there is little I can do when it comes to each of your destinies, that terrible things could come about, it makes me ache inside.
I wish I could be with one of you forever. But my sons, all I can do is cry with you or even for you if you feel pain. And though this may be a cruel thing for me to say and difficult for you to hear, it is true that while I would give my life, would die for you, my sons, I can never live for you.
Come now, we will change this talk. It will end my foolish thoughts and we will never speak of them again. For the lodge that will be yours is now complete. I cannot change it or move it, I can only hope that it will serve you well.
Time has come to speak of things long past. Of countless days filled with endless night. Of time that moved in beauty and with ease. My sons, these things must be heard in meaningful silence. So make your mind wide and clean like the eastern sky at sunrise. Wash your heart earnestly in the tears of the old ones that may be worthy of what I will tell. For it is said their tears have great value. They were red and fell gently like blood. My sons, everyone now has tears of water.
My sons, this is a story that is like a song. A sacred song that can be sung only once. Should we abuse it by changing it is telling and retelling, our story would become worthless and have little meaning. That is the way too many important ideas have been destroyed.
One thought passed around like dry leaves, scattering wildly on windy day, with no
planning as to where they will finally rest. The leaves pile us in untied bundles. People take notice for a short while. The leaves of red, yellow, and orange continue to cover our mother earth like warm blanket. And only a few rare people understand or care. My sons, do you know that many burn those dying leaves?
That is why we must use some judgment in deciding about people and what they should hear. Take time to find those who deserve to listen. Take time to know those who want to listen.
And though you shall hear this just once, at a time when your minds are young and uncluttered with memories that accompany time, it will be with you always. You will forget it only in brief moments when all the world is yours and you feel that there is nothing you cannot overcome. But something or someone will shake you and remind you of this story. Out of the forgotten days of youth, it will crawl like a beautiful baby you cannot ignore. Yes, my sons, it will haunt you all your lives and echo in your minds and re-echo in the days when life is precious and drawn to its end.
I shall tell it now with love for each of you and with respect for those who were before. It would not be sacred if I told it otherwise. For this is truly their song. They sang it many times, in many ways an eternity ago.
Listen, my sons! Listen to a song for life. The words are good. The song is old. Hear me now! Inside each of you, there beats a drum. Drums that are never silent. They speak and talk of life. When your strong brown hands reach out, the drums swell and move with pride. When your dark laughing eyes are still and bright with thought, the drums are whispering of your promise as men.
I wish that your grandmothers could see you now. I wish they could reach out and touch you. For they were the ones who gave their drums to you.
In the peaceful dark of yesterday they lived strong and proud, wise and beautiful because of their drums. Life was long and well-lived with dignity. The drums were the reason. They made life worth living.
If you should ask me from where the drums came, I have no answer. I know only that they have been for all time. There are stories that exist even today. The stories say that the drums lived with the buffalo at one time. I do not know. I am sure there are none today who really know except the drums. You realize my sons, there are old, dusty, almost forgotten songs that call the buffalo by name. He is called with great respect, the most honored name. He is called “Grandfather.”
Before the Grandfathers ruled is a space in time we never speak of. We know nothing of it. We should not flatter or shame ourselves by pretending to know what we do not. Yes my sons, life was pleasant and rewarding in the days of our grandmothers. Then all too soon Old Age came to stay. They knew without anyone telling them they must make room for you and me. Now Old Age demanded more and more of their attention. Soon he would make them forget their drums entirely. The handsome drums born to make music must inevitably become silent.
You see my sons, this is what comes of Old Age. By many he is greeted graciously and accepted lovingly. In return he is comforting and protecting, promising nothing, yet offering everything. Unhappily by many more, he is rejected in every possible way. They who are guilty of this to do themselves a great injustice, for Old Age can never be rejected. And he will make that one look foolish who appears to dismiss him. It is then that he pulls himself to his full height, and towering over one, he commands respect. It is to be those that he arrives much sooner than they expect, claiming all the senses and robbing all of life.
Tomorrow when he comes, you should say that you are not prepared. You may ask him to be generous with time. Say that you desperately need to make him a place where he will be proud and one that will do him great honor. You must say these things to him, my sons. He is understanding and patient with only those who are understanding and patient with him.
Now remember, my sons, once he moves in, it is poor taste to ask him to move out. He would not, you know, and there is no way to make him. Old Age, proud and haughty warrior that he is, has a secret as most of us do. He admires and envies life. There is nothing greater than his respect for one who cherishes life. My sons, he, never having life, yearns and rewards it. This would be an honorable thing, to have Old Age move aside and wait on you.
Perhaps of all virtues of old age. The best known is wisdom. Only the very wise could foresee the future of the drums. Old Age looks well dressed in mercy. He took pity on the drums and cared for them.
The grandmothers discussed their fate, calling regularly on him for answers. Soon it was decided that the drums should be given away, but not just to anyone. No, they must be given to a special people.
The old ones knew that someone, someday, would need the power of the drums. So after solemn prayers for guidance, they decided to whom the drums should be given. A few were given away immediately, for there are always those who are in need of such strength. Many more were saved for others who would follow in the footprints of time.
For those to come in the future, the drums were hidden in the shelter of the buffalo robe, because this is where the drums lived in the beginning. The grandmothers, though weakened by years, remembered this and humbly returned them.
My sons, it is important to remember. It is in remembering that our power lies and our future comes. This is the Indian way.
Little ones, the sun has daily searched the skies. The moon has followed, cautiously seeking places the sun, in anxiety, might have overlooked. Continually the earth was scourged by the piercing eyes of empty years. Then finally, one morning when night lifted her arms and tiptoed away, one by one, you came. The sun, realizing who you were, has since slowed his rapid pace and watches you expectantly. The moon has polished the silver shield she carries to guide your moccasined feet in the direction you choose to follow. She has rubbed clean faces for her children, the stars, that one of your might take notice of them.
My sons, I, along with the family whose home is heaven, have waited for you. And now, too, the grandmothers will rest peacefully, knowing you and others like you have finally arrived.
You understand, my sons, the grandmothers have been patient. Time did not control, and if time does not control, time cannot defeat.
They have borrowed these drums from the living soul of yesterday. They have been examined for quality of tone. Their voices are beautiful. Their melody is lasting. The grandmothers have placed them in your care. They have chosen the warmest place that they might sing their best. My sons, they rest upon your hearts.
Now for a short time the drums are yours. Beat them loudly and clumsily with your youth. For youth has always given them reason to dance in pure delight.
Beat them tenderly and possessively with cautious flings of middle age. For there are long years between childhood and manhood. Years were questions will rise like smoke curling from the ground around you, clouding your vision and threatening to bring tears.
Most of the questions will be answered by careful reasoning. Your tongue will shout the answer. But you will find, my sons, that the most important questions in life cannot be asked. The answer to those dwells in the heart. And as most of our people know, the heart has no tongue.
So my sons, when your steps take longer yet become shorter, when your back becomes bowed from the years you carry, and when the short dark hair that now hugs your head becomes tired gray threads that hang in strands down your back, you must use the drums even then.
With all your energy for their final song, beat the drums lovingly, extracting only the finest notes with all the skill of learned musicians.
/Contemprary Stories by American Indians
Come My Sons by Anna Lee Walters
/posted by rosevoc. 01112017