Friday, September 26, 2014

Goodnight Sweetheart

I have always sung special songs to my children. Some I have made up. Some are songs written by my dad or by the Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight by the Spaniels was always a favorite for my Analisa. I changed the lyrics to these:

Goodnight Sweet Ana
It's time to sleep
Goodnight Sweet Ana
It's time to sleep
I hate to leave you
But I must say
Goodnight Sweet Ana, Goodnight

Goodnight Sweet Ana
I love you, I do
Goodnight Sweet Ana
Pleasant dreams for you...

Nearly every night of her babyhood and toddler years I sang it as I swayed about the room with her in my arms.

Another classic, Hush, Little Baby, is the song I have sung most often to my babies. But, no, it's not the version most know.

On my oldest son Berto's first Christmas, my sister Vinca sent him a new version written and illustrated by Sylvia Long. In the introduction to it, she wrote that the original version about a parent offering to buy her baby all sorts of things always bothered her. So she created one to "encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them and in the warmth of a mother's love." She did a beautiful job writing about a hummingbird, the evening sky, an old teddy bear, lightning bugs, and a harvest moon. I learned her book by heart, and its words are those I sang to my Berto. I am still singing it every night to his four-year-old brother. Danny holds my hair in his hands as I sit on the floor by his bed, and if he thinks he may not get his song, he is distraught. So sometimes when Papa has tucked him into bed, has sung him The Gambler - yes, The Gambler - and told him it's time to sleep, I have snuck in to see my little guy for a quick Hush Little Baby to cure his tears.

For my Gabriella I broke the norm and created an all new song this past year in honor of her love of Batman:

Neener, neener, neener...Batgirl!
Neener, neener....Goodnight!
Neener, neener, neener...Batgirl!
Sleep Tight
Fight crime!

(Oonie is her much-loved and now quite raggedy teddy bear.)

I bring all this up to say that in trying to lovingly sooth my babies to sleep for years, I created memories for all of us. Ana, 10-years-old, recently got misty-eyed as she said, "Mama, I love your songs. I like listening to them. I miss them." My daughter has a big heart that gives lots of love but also needs much to fill it, and she is not afraid to be a child and soak up all she can. I feel Ana does not quite get what she needs sometimes, because her little brother and sister are very assertive in making demands on Mama's time and attention. She craves those small, precious moments with me still. I started singing Goodnight Sweet Ana again.

Last night I settled my hips into the small recliner by Ana to read for her from the Little House book, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I had just finished patiently listening to Gabriella read from Amelia Bedelia and brushing her teeth. Ella decided to come listen, too, as I read. It was time for her to be in bed, but I thought, Oh, what the heck. Just a few more minutes. I'm sorry to say the chair got a little crowded, especially with my pushy hips.

"Here, girls, you can snuggle. It's too crowded. I'm going to this chair," I said.

Gabriella happily settled right in, and Ana put her arm around her. As I looked at Ana to gauge her reaction, she began to laugh and then to quake.

"Is that okay, Ana?" I asked.

But she just laughed strangely, covering her face with her hand. Her laugh was not happy; it was one of resignation to a probable outcome. I saw tears leaking from the side of her eyes, and I knew what I had to do.

"Alright, Gabriella. It's time for bed."



She tried to protest, but I held out my arms as I began her Batman song with gusto. After carrying her to her room, I kissed her and tucked her in with that old Oonie.

Then I came back and sat in the chair with Ana, and she snuggled up to me, drying her tears.

"Thank you, Mama," she said.

I knew. I knew. And you can bet I sang Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight to my big-hearted girl who just wanted Mama all to herself again....for just a little while.


  1. What a good mother you are. When children are properly nurtured, they are founded upon something solid and are then prepared for life.

    1. I hope I am. There is always room for more selflessness.


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