Byzantium, I come not from,
But from another time and place
Whose race was simple, tried and true;
I dropped me forth in Illinois.
A name with neither love nor grace
Was Waukegan, there I came from
And not, good friends, Byzantium.
And yet in looking back I see
From topmost part of farthest tree
A land as bright, beloved, and blue
As any Yeats found to be true.
So we grew up with mythic dead
To spoon upon midwestern bread
And spread old gods’ bright marmalade
To slake in peanut-butter shade,
Pretending there beneath our sky
That it was Aphrodite’s thigh…
While by the porch-rail calm and bold
His words pure wisdom, stare pure gold
My grandfather, a myth indeed
Did all of Plato supersede
While Grandma in rockingchair
Sewed up the raveled sleeve of care
Crocheted cool snowflakes rare and bright
To winter us on summer night.
And uncles gathered with their smokes
Emitted wisdom disguised as jokes,
And aunts as wise as Delphic maids
Dispensed prophetic lemonades
To boys knelt there as acolytes
To Grecian porch on summer nights;
Then went to bed, there to repent
The evils of the innocent;
The gnat-sins sizzling in their ears
Said, through the nights and through the years
Not Illinois or Waukegan
But blither sky and blither sun.
Though mediocre all our Fates
And Mayor not as bright as Yeats
Yet stil we knew ourselves. The sum?
—Ray Bradbury, from the Prologue to Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite novels by Ray Bradbury. I don’t think it’s his best,1 but it’s a lovely nostalgic homage to his childhood in Waukegan, Illinois. The book’s greatest flaw is that it presents the childhood of a white male as the default perfect childhood2, but in Bradbury’s defense, I think he would have preferred that all children have as idyllic a childhood as he paints here.
I’m not certain why I chose this novel as my subject for today’s Day Thread, but the only other subject I would choose is that today is the 32nd anniversary of my marriage to Rick McKenzie. That’s over half my life, now. It’s been pretty idyllic, if not perfect. I have no major regrets, and look forward to another 32 years, I hope.