Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nothing Gold Can Stay

I never enjoyed homework when I was in school, much less essays. Sad to say, I typically still do not enjoy helping my kids with homework. A few nights ago, my youngest daughter had to write an essay about her summer reading. It was over a book she read, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. (FYI: S.E. Hinton wrote it in HIGH SCHOOL, second seller only to Charlotte's Web.)
          I have known virtually every word to the movie since I was a child, thanks to my older sister loving it. Not to mention, many heartthrobs starred in it. They were babies, but still wonderful. The cast consists of Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe (yummy,) Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Leif Garrett, Diane Lane … and of course, my all time favorite, Patrick Swayze … “Darry.”
          The homework assignment was to explain Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, along with Johnny’s words about what he thought Robert Frost meant. My daughter was stumped, thinking it was contradictory, talking about the colors green and gold and that life is more valuable when you are a kid. That’s where it all began …
The poem:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

       I remembered this poem, along with Johnny’s last words before he died, “Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold.”
However, considering the cutie patootie cast, I suppose I didn’t give it as much thought as I should. Now I have.

          We dissected each line …

          “Nature’s first green is gold.”

          I explained, “When things first bloom, they are green. When someone is new at a job, or a rookie, they are called green. The time when things bloom and begin is called ‘gold’ because it is valuable, precious and new, like childhood. Everything is new and fresh.”

          “Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.”

          “Do you know how flowers bloom, but they can’t stay bloomed for very long? And then the flowers, leaves and grass turn brown? He’s saying nature cannot keep things green for long. The seasons will take the vibrant green and beautiful blooms.”

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,”

          “The flowers turn back to leaves … and I think the next part is about Eve in The Garden of Eden .... screwing up when she lost her gold status in the garden eating the forbidden apple??” (Again, schoolwork is a struggle for mom ...)

“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

          “The magnificent sunrise turns to day. ‘Day’ is nice, just not as short-lived, magical and impressive as the sunrise. Nothing magnificent stays magnificent forever.”

          Then we moved on to Johnny’s letter, when he tells Ponyboy what he thinks that guy who wrote the poem meant. Johnny said that saving the kids was worth it, even though he died. The kids are gold.
I’m thinking Johnny didn’t feel a lot of gold in his life, world or future … especially since his home life was hellish and he had committed murder … so that put a bleak look on his future. Yet, though he was lying on his deathbed, burnt to a crisp and paralyzed, he had the nurse write this letter to his best friend assuring him there are ways to stay gold and see the good in life.
Ponyboy had shown Johnny how to appreciate sunsets … that’s gold. When we are young, everything is new and exciting, like dawn. Then we get older and the new wears off of the magical sun rising, so we become ‘day.’
My daughter was confused.
I had a mechanical pencil in my hand, and I said, “You don’t see anything cool about me pushing the end and led coming out, but if you were 2 or 3, this would be miraculous. Remember when I redid your room and you were so excited? Or how you want to sleep in new shoes?”
“Yes,” she said.
“That’s gold … dawn. Then the new wears off and it becomes day … no longer a wonderful thing. It’s just regular. The pencil lead comes out, unrecognized. The room looks boring and the shoes are ‘just shoes.’ Johnny is telling Ponyboy that ‘the way he digs sunsets is gold, not to lose that.’ He is saying to keep appreciating what is around you, what you have. Don’t let it turn to day. Then he tells him to show that to Dally (Matt Dillon,) because Dally spends his life with a chip on his shoulder, missing the beauty in life. Outsiders
Dally needs to watch the sun rise and set, and Johnny encourages Ponyboy to be the one to reveal such beauty to Dally. Unfortunately, Dally died before the letter was read. He died never knowing how to stay gold.”
I think she started to see the meaning … but I know I did.

I have a tendency to see the dead flowers instead of watching, enjoying and appreciating their blooming … then, remembering their beauty and anxiously awaiting their return.
I simply want things to “stay gold” … or I see them as ‘bad.’ I’m not keeping things gold. In reality, I want them to be perfect, or life sucks. Not cool.
Its about looking forward to the next blooming, great thing, enjoying it while it lasts, then remembering how beautiful it was … not focusing on the dying part. That’s not living.
There is gold all around me. One obvious example is my puppy, (Swayze.) Every time he sees me, it’s as though I have been gone a year. He is so so happy. Every time he gets a treat, it is like his first treat ever. He stays gold. Overlooking that would be letting dawn go to day, THEN, nothing gold can stay.

My friend Eve said, “When we are young, we are spring. Teenage to mid 20s, we are summer. Our age (middle age) is fall … and when we are in winter, we must rely on appreciating spring, summer and fall as others experience it … along with remembering our own joy of living it."
   Nothing gold stays, yet it does! It can if you choose to keep it alive.

I possibly got more out of the 350 word essay than my child …


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