Singing forward

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.”

. . .

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?

16 thoughts on “Singing forward

  1. I’m not great at remembering lyrics on demand. I have a beautiful daughter who has a lot of specials needs. When she came into our lives sleep left. In the early days of her life it was a time of great frustration. We found anger that we didn’t know we had. We sang a lot! The songs that came easily to mind were hymns and Primary songs. I sang, “I am a Child of God” almost every night. We found that by putting on a quiet cd of hymns brought the Spirit back into the house and soothed tired bodies and souls.

    A little later in her life, she started having seizures. Seizures are now a familiar part of our lives. When she has one she is often close to death because she has a hard time breathing. It’s scary and requires a great amount of faith in Heavenly Father and medicines that should stop the seizure. Someday Heavenly Father may call my Celestial girl home and I am left knowing that I got to participate in the miracle that is my girl. It is in those times when our souls are so tired that I have relied on music to soothe. The hymns, especially, have brought my family back to a place of love, peace, and healing. Our favorite cd is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “Love is Spoken Here.”

  2. Oh, I could comment on this post for days. I may need to write something on my own blog because this is such a tender subject for me. I am always on the lookout for lovely songs to sing to my daughter. A current favorite is “Not a Lullaby” by The Weepies. This new lullaby may need to be added to our repertoire. It’s stunning. Thank you so so much.

  3. What a beautiful post, Annie. I, too, grew up lullaby rich. When my mother was dying of cancer, my siblings and I would gather round her bed many evenings and sing to her the songs she had sung to us as children–the same songs that her mother had sung to her and that we were now singing to our own children. Red Wing, Here Comes the Sandman, I Got into a Boat, Rock-a-Bye, Don’t You Cry, Hush Little Baby, A Little Chicken Pie, and on and on . . . .

  4. I don’t know that my mother really sang lullabys to us, but there are a few songs I sing to my children that she sang to me. I’ve had to reword a few since she only had girls and I only have boys, though. My favorite is “I Have a Little Sailboat,” but it seems that hardly anyone else has ever heard it.

    I like it when she talks about songs her mother sang to her that I sing to my boys. My grandmother died a few months after I was born and that’s one way I can know her a little.

  5. My mother sang a Yiddish lullaby to me that her mother sang to her. It is about a little goat that gathered almonds and raisins. It still comforts me to think about it. I remember the words and I sang them to my daughters too.

  6. My mom sang this lulluby to me and my sisters: “Rock-a-by, don’t you cry, we are going to grammy’s. Over the hill and through the mill, to see the little lambies.” I sing it to my kids, but I haven’t run across it in children’s song books or poetry books. My husband sings pop standards (Cole Porter, Rogers & Hart, etc.) to our 10 yo daughter “They Way You Look Tonight” and such. Our 14 yo son likes my husband to read books aloud; they’ve gone through hundreds of books over the years. They both prefer that I tell them made-up-on-the-spot stories. I will miss these night-time soothing routines when they grow up and launch. Waaaa.

  7. Watching/hearing Grandma sing “Baby’s Boat” (in Wildwood, no less!) to my baby is a treasured memory that I will never, ever forget.

    My mother sang to us constantly, not just at bedtime. I do the same with my kids, who are mostly teen/tweens now.

    Cool or not, they can’t help themselves…they most often all join in and start singing with me. I love it.

    (Do you have that songbook Aunt Helen put together, Songs Mother Sang? Two Babes in the Wood, Not for Sale, Once There Lived Side by Side, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone….ahh, so many good memories!)

  8. Although I definately grew up in a singing (and just musical) household, I don’t remember my parents ever singing lullabys. My dad would recite nursery rhymes for my brother an I; he knew more than three hundred at one time.

    I sing the same lullaby every night — a variation on Hush Little Baby (Hush sweet children don’t say a word, Ammee’s going to show you a hummingbird, etc.). We also have reading before bed, a chapter book for kid #1 and a picture book for kid #2. When they wake me up early in the morning and I don’t yet want to get out of bed, we’ll snuggle and I’ll tell them stories about the adventures of an eponynous bear and mouse. Kid #2 is just starting to request these, but his brother wants them all the time.
    Sorry. Long aside. I regret that I don’t play a musical instrument like my parent do. I suspect we’d sing much more as a family if I did. I’m thinking of signing kid #1 and I up for piano lessons for just that reason.

  9. I don’t remember my mother singing lullabies, but we never seemed to have a working radio in the car, and we always sang whenever we went somewhere. When my oldest was a baby I would always sing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” to her as I got her up when she awakened. As more children came, I sang a variety of songs, 2 or 3 a night, often from the children’s songbook, as they went to bed because they were in different rooms. I stood in the hallway between their rooms and just sang for half an hour. Now not a one of them will sing in church, so something happened there. We still sing at home, especially my middle son, and we have certain songs for different activities. When I’m trying to get people rounded up for a project, it’s “The World has Need of Willing Souls” (because I have 3 boys AND 3 girls) and when I want to stir a service project it’s “Have I Done Any Good” – which is also my shower song. To my granddaughter I sing “Give said the little stream” because she seems to like it. Outside we always seem to sing “Little Bunny Fu-Fu”. I don’t know that I ever learned any lullabies. Seems kind of a silly loss.

  10. I’m done crying now, so I can respond. But I am apt to start again while I write.

    My grandmother died a year ago this month and there was no one in this world that reminded me that I was okay and adored as often as she did (see, now I am crying again). One of my most beloved memories of her was when she visited me 3 years ago and had accidently woken up my baby daughter. She then scooped up my 5 month old in her arms, who she was meeting for the first time and sang and danced her to sleep singing all the sweet old lullabies as though she had always known my baby and instantly began to reassure her, as though she had always known and loved her, just the way she had with my own mother, and I, many years before.

    The lullaby you shared was lovely. Thank you.

  11. I’m crying too. I just sang tonight again, like every night and thought how much I treasure singing to my kids. In fact, I thought how “performing” for my kids was better than singing for the world would be (not that I have that kind of talent).

    I let them choose. With my older daughter she loved for me to make up songs. I miss that!

    I loved to sing all the songs I knew from lullabys and primary songs to Edelweiss and Yesterday by the Beatles.

    Now I can only sing what my 5 yr old wants or she gets mad! But after watching Sound of Music she requested My Favorite Things. Thanks to my smartphone I learned the lyrics. Now I love when my 11 yo, 5 yo and 2 (almost 3)yo daughters are all singing this song together before bed!

    Hallelujah for Lullabys! (And this sweet post.) Now I’ll go cry while I check out your link!

  12. sing all day, my frustrations, my directions, what we are doing, what we need to do. Each child has a personal song.Some are real song that include their name like Danny boy and others were created especially for them. Their adult selves still sing those songs. I will call them all forever with their special songs. PS I was once asked out of a ward choir but my babies still like me to sing.

  13. My mother was born with a cleft palate, which caused the speech defect associated with hare lip. But she had the prettiest singing voice and loved to sing. She taught us so many songs, didn’t sing lullabies, but she taught us to love music.

    I should appreciate that more instead of bellyaching about all her flaws and shortcomings as a person and mother.

    I always had music going for my babies. I sang to them every night before bed, nothing special. I hummed Brahms Lullaby and it’s just heart-melting to hear my daughter hum it to her baby.

    I had a CD of Kathy Lee’s lullabies and the one I loved the best was “Sailing Away on a Dreamship.” Played that every night for years for Sarah.

  14. My husband finally learned to carry a tune while walking my son around and around the living room and singing the ABC song. I would listen (if awake) and silently cheer when he made it all the way to the end in the same key he’d started).

    We had a whole rack of “fractured” lullabyes, and we’d wind down by singing every one of them. E.g:

    Rockabye baby, in the treetop
    When the bough breaks, the cradle will drop.
    But you will float gently down to the root,
    For you have your helmet
    And parachute.

    I’m not tearing up…but I’m smiling.

  15. Each of my 4 kids has their signature lullaby: You Are My Sunshine, Edelweiss, I am a Child of God, I am Like a Star/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I also sang all of them a version of Rock-a-Bye Baby that wasn’t tragic.

    This one is MY favorite lullaby. I sang it in a community choir when I was pregnant with my first. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAov0tmKh6U

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