As many of you know, I’ve been a grandfather for four months now. Luckily my grandson Matthew lives nearby and I can help with his care several days each week. We have had many a fine adventure, and filled many a memory card with photos and videos. Our play sessions on the floor are delightful. As you might guess, music is already an important part of his life. It’s not just me – his parents, grandparents and great grandmother all make music in one way or another.
I sing to Matthew when he’s tired, or when we’re on a long walk and he’s restless in the stroller. It is one of the most certain ways of quieting him I know. And I’m not the only one in the family who treats him like a little drum kit while we sing. I suppose it’s ‘educational’ as someone on Facebook said, but it just seems that having a bit of complexity in the rhythm underneath the melody holds his attention.
Often I sing any tune that comes to mind. There have been a few that I didn’t feel like sharing the lyrics when I remembered them. Others I now sing regularly, enjoying his smile of recognition. I wondered, what songs am I singing that he will remember? Somehow “Rock-a-by baby, in the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” seems a bit scary for a lullaby.
Some songs are connected to family – cowboy songs from a recent family wedding in Texas, “On Top of Old Smokey” and “Happy Wonderer” from my parents. Some songs his mother sang with me as a child – “Waltzing with Bears” and four sets of lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle” tune.
Autoharp giant Brian Bowers wrote “When you learn a song, you’ve got a friend for life.” Thinking of what kind of UU song-friends I could share, two came to mind: Carolyn McDade’s “Come, Sing a Song with Me” and Martin Frey’s “I’ve Got Peace Like A River.” Both are easy but have spiritual depth as well as simple imagery for little literalists.
But my favorite song to sing him, as his head is starting to relax against my shoulder, is a traditional lullaby “The Riddle Song”
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone.
I gave my love a chicken without a bone.
I told my love a story without an end.
I gave my love a baby with no cryin’.
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken without any bone?
How can there be a story that has no end?
How can there be a baby with no cryin’?
A cherry when it’s bloomin’, there is no stone.
A chicken when it’s pippin, there is no bone (or: A chicken in the egg, there’s nary a bone)
The story that I love you it has no end.
And a baby when it’s sleeping, there’s no cryin’.
Songs are seeds we plant in our hearts. Plant a garden: learn or share a song!