Monday, August 10, 2009

Lullaby Litany


Ah Ha! I'm beginning to see the pattern. I seem to post on-the-eleventh-of-every-month. So there IS such thing as Blog Mind Control. And here I am again today, suddenly checking my anti-blogger's blog on the eve of the 11th. I better post. I better poooooooooooooooossssssssssssssttttttttttttttt.

Lately I've been thinking about lullabies. I am a serious lullaby singer. I mean it. I remember being at a friend's house once when we were both putting our kids, under age 2, to bed. She religiously brushed her child's teeth, while I hadn't bothered to bring the kid a toothbrush. But then she just put her to bed--no songs. "What?" I thought. Where have I gone so seriously wrong that I'm hardly brushing my 1-year-old's teeth, but always singing to him, and she's doing the opposite. No worries. I would graciously help her child avoid a scarred childhood by singing to her along with my son. But she just stared at me! She didn't know how to listen to a lullaby. So here's Lullaby Point #1: Who cares if the kid listens, or likes it. Just sing.

I pride myself on being a bit of a human jukebox, ready to take requests (of course, just like a jukebox, I insist you choose from a previously approved list of songs in my (mental) inventory). I even sing lullabies when I tend other peoples' children. I'm not saying it helps them fall asleep--in fact, usually they just stare at me sort of skeptically transfixed. I don't take offense. And that's the what's so great about lullaby-ing, and what brings me to Lullaby Point #2: Your audience has no experience upon which to base judgment of your talent. It doesn't matter if you can't sing!

So, now that we've got the "can't sing" excuse out of the way, let's move on to the other excuse I hear all the time--you don't know the words to any thing. Come on. Didn't you memorize any love songs in high school? Anything? (I still remember the first radio lyrics I memorized in elementary school ("People are people so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully"). But that's beside the point.) This brings me to Lullaby Point #3: ANY song can make a great lullaby. At this point let me just say for the benefit of all my religious affiliates, I don't do primary songs unless pushed. I figure the kids will get them anyway, and there are only so many hours in the day for me to introduce them to other great pieces of music.

And so, for the benefit of all un-lullabied children out there, I'm going to list the lyrics to a few of my favorite lullabies in the hopes that it's not too late for your parents to redeem themselves. You can find the melodies online, or make up your own.

In all seriousness--clearly I'm insecure and drenched in all sorts of "issues" because I have so much trouble being serious on a blog--these lullabies have meant a lot to me and my kids. They have calmed fears, smoothed over anger, and created cherished moments where my big kids become my little ones again. If you don't like these, sing anything. I'm a word person, so I tend toward lullabies with lyrics that speak to me. My husband tends toward 80's classics in his lullabies--or his old standby, "You Light Up My Life."

I have always had one particular special one for each child, including my baby that died. I also have a strong show tunes bent, as those are the songs I grew up on and memorized as a child. I also always feel free to change the lyrics as I wish. I'm eager to learn an Ethiopian lullaby for my new girls.

Baby Mine (Dumbo)

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine
Little one when you play
Pay no heed what you say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
If they knew all about little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you
From your head to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be, baby of mine

Tender Shepherd (Peter Pan)

Tender shepherd
Tender shepherd
Let me help you hold your sheep
One in the meadow
Two in the garden
Three in the nursery
Fast asleep...

Little Jasper (children)
Little Ruby
Let me help you fall asleep
One, close your eyes and
Two, say your prayers and
Three, safe and happily
Fall Asleep
Fall Asleep

Sweet Baby James (James Taylor)
I bet most of you know this one, and just didn't realize what a great lullaby it makes. In fact, I bet a lot of the stuff you've got in iTunes would! Even my mom thought this made a pretty lullaby when she heard me singing it. This has always been the personal property of my first born, Jasper. I think I first sang it because it was long, and he cried a lot, and I was out of other tunes, and it was about falling asleep, and about Boston (where I lived), and cowboys (which I was missing).

There is a young cowboy
here is a young cowboy he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Waiting for summer, his pastures to change

And as the moon rises he sits by his fire
Thinking about horses and loved ones dear*
And closing his eyes as the doggies retire
He sings out a song which is soft but its clear
As if maybe someone could hear

(chorus)
Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby james
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Wont you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby james

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

Theres a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

- chorus -
*my little lyric change, so as not to encourage beer for my baby

Ruby's Eyes (Cori Connors)
This song is actually Cori Connors' beautiful "David's Eyes," modified to become the special lullaby of my little Ruby. I thought it fit her perfectly, because of the rootbeer brown eyes. I love singing love songs to my kids--it makes the lyrics take on a whole new meaning.

Ruby's eyes are rootbeer brown
and if you look in them you'll see
They're just a mirror of all the things she loves
and every time she turns to me
I can only see my reflection
and I wonder to myself
Why she'd give me all her affection
When she could have anyone else.

They say love is blind,
well, that may be
'Cause she sees in me something I can't see
You know a heart will embrace what the world denies
When it sees
Through Ruby's eyes.

When I'm tired, and when I'm sad
And a shadow hides the day
Her eyes will sparkle bright
Catch the dimmest light
And send it shining back my way

Like a crystal caught in a prism
Like the diamond on my hand
It multiples somewhere within her
and comes out in a rainbow again

They say love is blind,
well, that may be
'Cause she sees in me something I can't see
You know a heart will embrace what the world denies
When it sees
Through Ruby's eyes.
When it sees through Ruby's eyes.


Jenny Rebecca (Barbra Streisand)
I substitute my own baby's name. If you have a brand new one and are thinking about all that lays ahead for them in this new life, you can hardly make it through this one without crying. It's a goodie.

Jenny Rebecca, four days old
How do you like the world so far?
Jenny Rebecca, four days old
What a lucky, lucky, lucky
Lucky girl you are
For you have swings to be swung on
Trees to be climbed up
Days to be young on
Toys you can wind up
Grass to be lying on
Sun up above
Pillows for crying on
When you're in love
Ponies for riding
Wind in your hair
Slides to be sliding on
Leaves in the air
Dogs to be caring for
Love to be giving
Dreams to be daring for
Long as you're living
Yes, you have
Dreams to be daring for
Long as you're living
Jenny Rebecca, four days old
What a lucky, lucky, lucky
Lucky girl you are...

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz)
This was one of my kids' favorite lullabies at the time I was pregnant with Charles, so they sang it at his funeral. It's been his ever since. After he died I set it as the ringtone on my phone for many months. When I was ready, I changed it. Cheesy, I know, but it helped me ease through the loss. With this one it's always important in our house to sing the whole thing, even though most people usually don't include the beginning.

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane

When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There's a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun
Just a step beyond the rain

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Someday i'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melts like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why, then oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Someone's Waiting For You (The Rescuers)
I've always loved this song, but it never quite fit my kids because they had never had to wait for a family, as the girl in the movie does. I can't believe that I will now have an adoption story of my own, and now know the girls I've been singing this for. Of course, it also works great when your kids are feeling sad and alone any time in life.

Be brave little one
Make a wish for each sad little tear
Hold your head up though no one is near
Someone's waiting for you

Don't cry little one
There'll be a smile where a frown used to be
You'll be part of a love that you see
Someone's waiting for you

Refrain:
Always keep a little pray'r in your pocket
And you're sure to see the light
Soon, there'll be joy and happiness
And your little world will be bright
Have faith little one
'Til your hopes and your wishes come true
You must try to be brave little one
Someone's waiting to love you

Always keep a little pray'r in your pocket
And you're sure to see the light
Soon, there'll be joy and happiness
And your little world will be bright
Have faith little one
'Til your hopes and your wishes come true
You must try to be brave little one
Someone's waiting to love you

Hush, Little Baby (traditional)
I always make this about the mom, not the dad, because I'm the one singing, right?? The words have lots of variations, but these are the ones I remember enough to sing regularly.

Hush little baby
don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you
a mockin' bird,

If that mockin' bird don’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you
a diamond ring,

If that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama’s gonna buy you
a lookin' glass

If that lookin' glass gets broke
Mama's gonna buy you a billy goat

If that billy goat don’t pull,
Mama’s gonna buy you
a cart ‘n bull,

If that cart ‘n bull turn over,
Mama’s gonna buy you
a dog named Rover,

If that dog named Rover
runs 'round
You'll still be the sweetest little
babe in town.

There are many other great traditional ones, like "You Are My Sunshine," that I love to sing, too. I'm not going to give you the lyrics because I'm sure you already know them! Somewhere deep inside.

POSTSCRIPT: How could I have forgotten "Edelweiss" and "Candle on the Water?" These I sing in honor of my dad.

8 comments:

it's just lisa said...

How great. We sing many of those same songs to our kids, which surprises me since there are SO many songs in the world to choose from. Your kids are lucky to have you for their mom.

Emily said...

I love this tender post-- good job being serious, but I'm partial to the humor sprinkled in, too! I am so sick of my primary songs (the kids are, too). Thanks for reminding me of some of the greatest love songs for our children. I want to keep them little as long as possible, too.

Brooke said...

I should sing to my children. I don't very often, I just never seem to remember the words to any "kid" songs, but I'm sure they don't care what I sing, it's just the melody they listen to. You are a super wonderful mother. Your children are very lucky!

Charlotte said...

Thank you for reminding me to sing more. I used to sing all the time and I'd like to find that old part of myself again. It is funny how often I start singing a song I thought I knew only to realize I have no idea what the lyrics are other than the first few lines and the chorus.

JenSav said...

You are such an amazing writer Emily, with such beautiful descriptions and phrasing (thought sounded like something Mrs. Drake in AP English would say - sorry). Thank you for that gentle post. As my baby is only 7 days old today, it hit home (especially the song about how much there is left for them to experience) and of course I thought of your "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at Charles funeral as soon as I read your post title. :) I'm so sorry I missed your birthday on Thursday . . . . I hope you did something fun. Please know of my love and keep writing! I love to read it. :)

mabeybowman said...

So fun to have all these lyrics written down! I don't remember about half the lyrics to most of the songs I sing so I make up stuff or hum. I've often thought it would just take reading them through a few times to get them down. Now I have them all in one post! Harriet's lullaby is 'Angels on your Pillow' and lately she requests 'the duck song' or 'The Little Duckling' that Danny Kaye sings in 'Hans Christina Anderson.' Thanks for reminding me of some more good songs!

Emily said...

Love the list... and impressed that you included one from the Rescuers. I love that movie. Believe it or not... lately I've been singing Yabbi Total Eclipse of the Heart. Your songs are much better. My usuals are Everything's All Right (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Bless the Child (Billie Holiday).

Jodi said...

I love ths post Emily. I've actually printed off a few of the lullabys to start singing to my baby. I was stuck in a rut of singing the same stuff over and over. Thanks