I grew up lullaby rich. My mom, a harpist, sometimes fit in her practicing time after our bedtime and on those lucky nights we fell asleep to impossibly lovely sounds. There were also lullabies sung from beside the bed or from the doorway, the hall light flooding around my parents’ silhouettes. My dad’s specialty was All The Pretty Little Horses. My mom sang Baby’s Boat or Star Baby, songs that her mom and her mom’s mother sang before that.
I sang those songs forward to the next generation. At the end of long, impatient, oh-so-imperfect days those lullabies were musical peace offerings to my children. At other times they tried to help heal young, battered feelings, disappointments, and other invisible injuries sustained in daily living. I like to think that my kids will sing them forward someday. There are some hints that the songs will stick around. Recently my far-away, college freshman daughter wrote about how her lullaby memories comforted her in the midst of crazy freshman life. And years ago, in a sweet moment of role reversal, three-year-old Sam crept into my room where I was sick in bed, leaned over my face, and whisper-sang Star Baby, patting my forehead and face all the way through.
If this all sounds sentimental and maudlin (guilty!), I blame a new lullaby that has found a tender spot in me lately. (I am having trouble imbedding the video here but please go have a listen.) Whether you think of it as a love letter from your mama or a lullaby for your babies, who doesn’t need to hear “you’re okay”?
“I have never loved someone the way I love you
I have never seen a smile like yours
And if you grow up to be king or clown or pauper
I will say you are my favorite one in town
I have never held a hand so soft and sacred
When I hear your laugh I know heaven’s key
And when I grow to be a poppy in the graveyard
I will send you all my love upon the breeze
And if the breeze won’t blow your way, I will be the sun
And if the sun won’t shine your way, I will be the rain
And if the rain won’t wash away all your aches and pains
I will find some other way to tell you you’re okay”
*My mom sent me the link to this lovely song, written and sung by My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) for her son. According to the notes by the filmmaker, “After the concert I finally dared to ask her what I wanted to ask her that morning, to sing us this lullaby that struck me down. It’s Sunday morning…the whole hotel seems suspended in the air. We ask her to get to the bar, to make it sing for her, to sing for her son (for whom she had written this song). We erase ourselves. She, she doesn’t. After we’re done filming, I cry. She cries too.”
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Tell us about your lullaby memories. What songs are meaningful to you and your family? In what ways do you express “you’re okay” to people you love?