I was thinking tonight as I put D to bed about how much singing had become part of our family life. Ironically so, as neither Ross or I have much (read ‘any kind’) of a singing voice. Still, when your child is an extremely demanding and appreciative audience, it brings out the best in you.
It started when it took so many hours to get him to sleep – I would sing to him out of sheer desperation and to while away the time as I held in my arms, willing him to sleep. I sang him the songs I remember my mother singing to me. I have clear memories of her singing two particular songs standing in the dark between my bed and my sister’s. She sang the lovely blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you and the lullaby that goes: ‘You can have the moon to play with, and the stars to run away with, they’ll be yours if you don’t cry, singing Lulla-lulla-lulla-lulla-bye-bye.’ As a child, I found that line exhilerating: the moon to play with, the stars to run away with.
I thought my singing all washed over D in sleepy waves, until one day we were out for a walk and he sat in the back-pack singing “Lord make his face to shine upon you… lift up his countenance upon you”, quite clearly and fairly tunefully.
Another of D’s early favourites is Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, my poor renditions reinforced by a version we have of it sung by a Zambian acapella group. This has prompted the question recently: ‘What’s a battle like, mamma?’ This CD is still a firm favourite in the car. Daniel joins in loudly with another song on it that goes: tuwah, tuwah, tuwah, tuwah (no translation available).
Ross sings multiple verses of ‘Kum ba ya’ when he is putting Daniel to bed. I sing anything that comes into my head from old hymns and Sunday School choruses to nursery rhymes and lullabies. Daniel quickly remembers every word and corrects me if I change a single one. The other night at supper, for some reason we started singing ‘Doh, a dear…’ The look on Daniel’s face was one of bemused delight, almost the same expression as the little boy in Mary Poppins when she suddenly bursts into ‘A spoonful of sugar…’.
I guess all is this singing is creating something like a cultural memory: word associations, rhymes and tunes that will lodge deep in the subconscious. I hope Daniel and Kirsten do not too quickly become embarrassed by our singing. Surely families are the only place for unselfconscious sing-a-longs. If not here, then where? If not now, then when?