Tuesday, August 25, 2009


When I was a boy, I remember so many books and television programs that had parents singing to the children to help them to rest. This seemed like such a miracle to me. I loved the idea or the sound of a voice - it was usually a woman's voice - calming a baby. 

I'm reminded of this feeling each time we pop the Lady and the Tramp video into the DVD player for my daughter. There's a scene in the film where Peggy Lee sings goodnight to the baby boy in the film. 

My daughter gets excited by this scene and asks again and again, "What's the Mommy doing? Why is she singing to the little boy? Did Mommy sing to me when I was a baby?" It's a wonderful image and I love sharing it with my daughter. I could watch it with her again and again.  

But, my own singing - poor as it is - has never had much effect on our children. Now, I don't think I've ever made them cry at the sound of me, but I don't recall that they had ever stopped crying at the sound of my voice either. I've been inclined to be a little disappointed at this. 

They're both city kids and there are lots of noises that come through our walls. I suspect, that as infants, they had put my singing voice in the same category as the police and ambulance sirens; or the neighbor's dog; or the voices that come in from the street when the bars have closed. Just another of those crazy city sounds; nothing to remark over. 

But last night that changed. 

My little guy, who had been fussing in his crib, actually stopped crying when I sang a little tune that my father had taught us as children. 

He looked up at me for a moment with both eyes open with wonder like flashlights. He stopped his crying and started to play with the mobile in his crib. His quiet play turned quieter as I sat on the couch and continued the little song over and over. Eventually I could hear the regular sound of his sleeping; a miracle. 

I felt, at that moment, like I did as a young little league player in right field, when I caught my first fly ball; both then and now, I had expected failure and been delightedly surprised with success. I kept looking over at him - as I wanted to do with that old baseball - to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  

All day long I thought about that moment. I wondered if it was a fluke. I felt like a man whose seen a cougar in his back yard and has been reluctant to believe his own memory. 

But tonight I had the same luck. The boy went down and asleep like a charm. It's one of the best feelings I've had as a dad. 

That feeling wasn't lessened when I learned my experience wasn't unique later as I met my wife in the kitchen. 

"Oh sure," my wife said when I told her, "He does that for me all the time. It's nice, isn't it."

I just smiled and agreed. I'm glad we can share this. 

I'm sure at this age he won't remember his Mom or Dad singing to him, but I hope there's some feeling that will linger. I know I won't always be able to bring him comfort, but I hope that some idea of it will stay; some dim memory of a silly song - a drunkards lullaby really - that he heard once upon a time. 

Neither of us may have that silvery voice that Peggy Lee graced the screen with, but there's a preciousness to the voice that loves you that feels like gold. 

For me that voice is faded now. It's the voice of my aunt when she was young - really just a teenager - holding me in her lap in a battered old red leather recliner in the den of my grandmother's house. I hear that voice when I'm sad or lonely and I can still take some comfort from it. 

I don't remember all that she said, or even if she sang to me at all, but there was love in that voice; and when a voice has love, you can always recall it. 


Cathy said...

Oh, so beautifully written. I agree--a voice with love is what matters. My mother has a terrible singing voice (she'd be the first to admit it), but I still remember her singing to us, and even snatches of the lyrics (something about "a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck").

David Sexton said...

Hi Cathy,
Thanks. I know that one. It's from Guys and Dolls.


Take Care,

Cathy said...

Oh, thanks! I'm going to check out the lyrics.

Hope you're feeling a bit less angry tomorrow. I know that teapot left on the stove too long feeling.