Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bedtime Songs: Generations of Influence

Each night, Lincoln's bedtime routine includes a book, a few songs, and a family prayer. Last night as I rocked and sang to Lincoln in our cozy rocking chair, a song from my childhood came to me:

My dear old granny Shanks and my mom always sang "Mairzy Doats" to me. I loved it for the nonsensical play on words and the pastoral images it conjured up in my mind.  When I think of this song, I feel held in my mother's arms again. And so I sing this song to my baby boy too.

It didn't take long in my pondering of childhood songs for me to remember "Toora, Loora, Loora," being sung to me in the shaky off key voice of my gran, or the smooth voice of my mother.

Then another came back. "Yellow Bird" was quite possibly one of my most favorite songs as a little girl. My mom always played the piano accompaniment and I would sing, stretching my neck to expand it to meet the demands of the low to high range. When I was about 3 years old, I performed this song for the very sick husband of one of my granny's friends. He died several days after I sang for him. My granny's widowed friend still asks to this day, "How is little Yellow Bird doing?" This song gave me a nickname for life, as well as a desire to continue to use my talents to benefit others.

The next song was sung by both my grandpa and granny Shanks. But, more often than not it was sung by grandpa - a Navy vet - as he bounced me in time on his knee. His life and his song (as well as a lifetime of talk radio and very patriotic parents ;) ) have bred into my heart a love of country and an abiding respect for those who protect it. When I searched for a version to share, most included the brassy proud sounds of a marching band and the fanfare of a large choral group, but I chose this version with the acoustic guitar, because it better captures the simple nostalgic fondness I feel as I hear the song, "Wild Blue Yonder." Now I think of this song (and sing it on occasion) as Squire "flys" Lincoln on his arms around the house.

And how could I ever forget, "You Are My Sunshine." I couldn't! This songs wraps up a hundred tender loving moments from my youngest days in one song. My mom sang to me every night at bedtime for years. I sang and sobbed to its cheerful tune when we lost our first baby. It reminds me of the love my mother, and ancestors have for me, to cherish the little one I have, the reason I live, and gives voice to the love I feel for my own little family.

As I searched for videos of these songs to accompany this post, I realized that all of these songs existed decades before my birth. What a powerful force songs can be - for generations - if only we simply sing them.

What are some of the favorite songs from your childhood?

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