A typical 1940's country family's evening.
Traveling back in time, about 60 years ago, everything was about family union. A lot of that can be found in Theodore Roethke's poems, written back in the 40's. My Papa's Waltz is a perfect example of such unique characteristic that time represents. Born in a greenhouse in Michigan, Theodore expresses his infantile family memories in an extraordinary way, that brings to the readers the true feelings he had when he wrote it. A very rich vocabulary used makes a connotative analysis of the words required when reading his poetry.
An impression of him being an abused child could begin right in the very first line of his poem, if not well interpreted. "The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy- (1-2): This passage leads the reader to an incorrect idea of a drunk father getting home; but the reality is that it.
just shows a typical farmer father drinking whiskey, which is a very common thing in cold places, and fatally will give a strong alcoholic breath for whoever drinks it, no matter how much. The son seems to keep on the mood even though it was very hard to do such thing.
Following these thoughts the whole idea is totally confirmed when Theodore says "We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf - .
(5-6). A happy situation like partying, dancing, playing around comes in mind. So the previous thoughts of an unhappy and abused child, goes away being replaced by a united and happy family's day mood.
Considering the title of the poem, the word "Waltz" should mean some kind of music / dance typical to them. That could explain what "At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle- (11-12) really tells in the connotative way: A little boy dancing with his father and at every step of the dance his ears almost hits his father's belt.
So far is quite easy to follow the main point of the poem. But the last part of "My Papa Waltz" will probably drive the audience to a mistaken point once again.