lullabies

Today, Douglas didn’t have a nap. He’s at that awkward stage–if he naps, he has a hard time getting to sleep at night, but if he doesn’t nap, Mr. Cheerful generally loses his cool. Today, I thought he’d be fine without his nap, and he was, until about 6:30 when his world came unglued. So, on with the jim-jams, find Mickey and Minnie and Tigger, and off to bed.

I never really thought about how unorthodox my lullabies were until we had a babysitter last weekend. Nancy, a colleague of mine with two boys of her own, graciously offered to look after my two so Tim and I could attend a gallery opening. Aidan very seriously reported the next morning that he had a lot of fun with Nancy, but…”she didn’t know all the songs.”

We always start off with “London Bridge.” Pretty normal there.

Then “Alexander Beetle,” a song from 1970 that my sister used to play for me. A folk singer named Melanie recorded it (A.A. Milne wrote it), and it’s just a simple tale about a girl whose friend accidentally lets her pet beetle out of the matchbox she kept it in. Somewhere in Texas there is a reel-to-reel tape of me singing the song when I was about 6 or 7.

Next, if time permits, come two Texas songs: “San Antonio Rose” and “Roly Poly.” Gotta love Bob Wills. I didn’t realize until very recently that Bob Wills isn’t one of the American “standards” like I’d thought he was when I was growing up. His music is a little cheesy, but you’ll find your toes tapping as you listen to “San Antonio Rose” and you’ll sit on the edge of your seat waiting, just waiting for….”ahhhhhhhhhhh-HA!”

And we always end with “Sleepy Eye Town.” You won’t find that one anywhere online because it’s a song my great-grandmother wrote and sang to her babies. My family didn’t have much to pass from one generation to the next–no great properties, no fabulous antiques, certainly no money. But this song has been sung to five generations of babies in our family. (Just in case you think my math is off, my kids are the 4th generation, but my niece has babies of her own in the 5th generation). It pleases me to think that after all the decades of change—from radio to 78s to 33s to reel-to-reel to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to my iPod— “Sleepy Eye Town” lives in the same place it’s always been–in the hearts and voices of the mamas in my family.

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