My advice for life: dance and sing your song while the party is still on. Rasheed Ogunlaru
You could tell he was getting tired when his baby feet weren’t finding their bouncy-seat-dancing-rhythm, when his blueberry-blue eyes were beginning to become foggy and hazed, when his glee-shrieks were sounding a little bit jagged and kind of crazed. However, he didn’t surrender to his sleepiness with ease, this six-month old grandson of ours, during those evenings that Grandpa Cam and I babysat over the three and a half weeks of the holiday’s Camp Haskell Remien. It took a diaper change and fifteen or so minutes of rolling around on our bed’s down comforter, nestled between his grandparents; it took a warm bottle of breast milk and a set of welcoming arms and a cuddle to the heart and the constant motion of a walk around the house by yours- truly to soothe this active guy into sleep. And it took my singing. I’m not kidding; it took my singing!
On those evenings that we babysat, I’d pick up this beloved bundle of baby, and I’d transport him, cradled in the crook of my arms, from room to room, and he would look up at me, lock his eyes into mine, and I would sing. I’ve been singing to him every chance I get since he was a newborn, the one song that keeps bubbling up from my non-musical center. “Hush little baby, don’t you cry, Grandma’s going to sing you a lullaby.” I sing it over and over, the same words, the same tune. And Baby Viren, I feel him relaxing as I repeat my one song, settling in a little closer to his Grandma’s heart, relaxing his grip on his to-do list for the day, letting out a sigh and allowing those lids to sink down over those wide blue eyes. So it was always the one song that lulled him off to sleep – always the same song, until one night, that is, near the end of Camp Haskell Remien’s holiday session. It wasn’t like I was bored with my “Hush little baby . . .” song. I loved singing it to my appreciative audience. And that’s what I began to do on this particular night in early January. And then something happened, something new and unexpected.
I remember where I was standing, in the living room, with my back to the French Doors leading out to our deck, Viren in my arms, and my usual “Hush little baby . . .” song swaying through me. That’s when I looked down at the wide-mouthed basket filled with baby books, looked down at the one book that drew me in, the Book House book that belonged to my mother when she was a girl. And I’m not sure if that’s what did it, the worn cover with its painting of two little children sitting on a rock reading to each other, with the fox and the mouse and the squirrel and the rabbit listening in, and the memories of my mother reading to me from the magical stories that sprang from this book’s pages. I’m not sure if that’s what ignited this new something that bubbled up from inside of me, the girl who has never been able to carry a tune. Maybe it came from my mother who used to read to me this poem over and over and over again, my mother who could carry a tune to the far corners of the earth and back again. All I can tell you is that my swaying shifted and, as I began to walk again, with babe in arms, a new song was flowing out of me. “Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe . . .” I felt it as I walked around the downstairs of our house, the magical sea that the three fishermen sailed off into. The house was a shimmer with a million sparkling fish, with a million sparkling stars as I sang to Viren. And I sort of remembered the words to this poem, and reciting poems is not that big a deal to me. I’m good at that. It was the tune that surprised me, a melody that flowed up and out of me on a sea breeze, a melody that was haunting and beautiful and evoked the magic of this poem’s nighttime journey. I sang and I sang to my beloved grandson, this new song. I sang and I sang as he drifted off to sleep.
And then Camp Haskell Remien was over and we all moved on to the next chapters in our lives. And I let it go, this new song of mine. I let it go until I remembered it again. It was a few weeks ago now, at Joy Center’s Out Loud, and I was sitting on the stairs, soaking in everyone’s sharing, soaking in this particular sharing, three vibrant buddies of mine up there in front of us all, bringing us a rough draft performance of a song/art piece that they are fine-tuning. There was something brave and raw and fun in their courage to share with us something still “in process”, something that wasn’t smooth around the edges. And that’s when I remembered it, that I have a song, too, a melody that flows through me. In that moment, sitting on the stairs, the tune came back to me, and the deliciousness of the whole experience, the way I was holding a baby who I adore and we were sailing together on a magical sea and we were linked by the words that my mother used to read to me and by this melody that arose from somewhere deep and mysterious. And now I sing it. I sing it to the woods as I skate-ski through winding trails. I sing it to the walls of my house as I fold the clothes. I sing it out into the ethers. I sing it to my mother and I sing it to my grandson. I sing it, my own raw and unpolished song.