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.

The Drive

One thing you didn’t know about me: I love driving. LOVE IT. Which is a good thing, because I married a car guy. And I mean a REAL car guy. I won’t tell you how many cars he has, but I did put in our marriage vows that I would never ask him to sell any of them. I have also named most of them, and each has its own personality. One of the perfect things about the Retreat is that it has garage space for nine cars, so he’ll be able to tinker with the fleet to his heart’s content. That makes him happy, so that makes me happy.

The first time M drove up to my house, he had no idea I lived so far away from where he lived. In reality, it’s only 40 miles, but the first few times each of us drove those 40 miles, it felt more like 100. We definitely had some issues with balancing who went to whose house for a few years. I admit he came north more often than I went south (and for that, my love, if you’re reading this, I’m grateful.)

Now that we’re finally preparing to shack up together at the Retreat, it’s a drive for us both — about 170 miles from my Bungalow, and 130 miles from his house. This drive is different than driving to one another’s house because every time we take it, separately or together, we’re winding up in OUR house. And it’s a nice drive.

Have you noticed that when you drive a route regularly, particularly if it’s a longish drive, you create waypoints for yourself? I’ve found routes that keep me off of the interstate through the main part of the city, which makes for a slightly longer, but much more soothing drive. A long section of this interstate-avoidance takes place along what I call the “magic road”. For one thing, it’s lovely. Two lanes, rolling hills, ranches, livestock. But it’s magic because sometimes it feels like it’s a twenty-minute drive and other times, it feels like it takes an hour. M and I have decided that it’s some sort of a time vortex. But with goats and yaks.

After the magic road, there’s a stretch of interstate through an city, but the next waypoint is the Love’s truck stop. Years of being a road warrior for work taught me drink any kind of coffee, but my favorite coffee is truck stop coffee, and my favorite truck stop coffee is Love’s. Besides, who can resist the name?

Another 25 miles or so, and I catch my first glimpse of what I’ve come to think of as “my mountains”. The Spanish Peaks, whose outline looks remarkably like a lovely set of breasts, are off to the south a bit, and my mountains are off to the west. They edge the sky with a fitting craggy gentleness, growing larger as I drive closer. The Retreat is at their feet. Coming off the interstate is like diving into a valley, dry and brown in winter, deer cavalierly dining at the side of the road. Our tiny town has four churches and a post office. No stoplights. The turns to the Retreat sink us deeper into ranchland and scrub oak. And then we are home, snug in the pines. The sun sinks behind the mountain just after three, leaving a lazy, lingering light that fades to a soft dusk. I look forward to many sunsets there.