Songs of Mothers

I am not much of a singer, being very shy about my voice, which is something that a therapist would no doubt have a great time unpacking. I actually think I have a pretty nice singing voice, judging from my enthusiastic performances during The Drive. I especially like it when I have a bit of a cold, because then I get my sultry 900-number voice and sound like a torch singer. Only once in my life have I ever done anything like karaoke. It was in Dallas, on top of a grand piano, after much alcohol, and the evening ended with the police recommending that I leave town and not return (though not because of my singing).

If I sing in someone’s presence, it means I trust them with some deep and sensitive part of me. I sing in front of M, which reflects the strength of our relationship. And I sing unconsciously in the kitchen when K is home, because I’m happy she’s there and I feel I can be completely myself with her. I hope she remembers when she gets older that her mother used to sing incomplete versions of The Lumberjack Song, among other ditties, in the morning as she lay in bed. I usually add my own lyrics when I forget the actual ones. My Mother also sang snatches of songs in the kitchen. That’s where a lot of my kitchen songs (and ones I used to sing to K in the car) come from. They’re all old songs, and when I say old, I mean from the 1940s. Think Fred Astaire movies and Cole Porter tunes. My Mother had a lovely, sweet, singing voice

I sang to K at night when she was little, as my Mother did to me. Every night when I was small, my Mother would sing Rock-a-Bye Baby to me. If I had bad dreams, she would cuddle me in the big rocking chair and sing to soothe me. My two favorites were “I Wonder as I Wander” (fitting for the little wanderer that was me) and “The Cherry Tree Carol”. I’m sure there were others. In fact, decades ago, my Mother made me a tape of herself singing my favorite lullabies. Even though I treasure it, I have had a very hard time keeping track of it. But I know that the tape will reappear when I need it most. Of that I am certain.

The songs I sang to K were not the same as those my Mother sang to me. My favorites to sing to her were “When Halley Came to Jackson”, “Down in the Valley”, “End of my Pirate Days”, “Go to Sleep my Zoodle”, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (which is a song that saved her life when she was very tiny because she had been crying for six straight hours and I was home alone with her and called the doctor because I wanted to drop her out of the second story window into the snow and I discovered that singing this song to her over and over made her stop crying), and a lullaby that I created when I was pregnant called “Go to Sleep, my Little Love”. Again, I’m sure there were more. She doesn’t recall the songs too well, but I think that’s a factor of age and where she is in her life. If she has a child, she will remember my singing to her, and find her own songs to sing to her wonderful little person.

I’d love to know what songs you sing (or sang) to your children, and what songs your mother sang to you. I have a dear friend who is having her first child in May and I’d like to put together a little collection for her. She and her husband are exceptionally musical, so I know they won’t be shy about singing to their little guy who will, as so many children before him, feel the love in those songs.

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