memory

Lullaby

Naptime2    I am very weary these days, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and stress. It is difficult to find a safe shore to rest upon and when by chance I do find a moment to lie my head down, anxiety churns the waters. So tonight I thought perhaps I could try a story of a lullabies – lullabies that eased weary souls a long time ago.

When my daughter Nene was an infant, she was at first calmed by the old standard by Brahms, but as she grew into toddlerhood, she began to prefer more rousing  tunes. She had a strange proclivity toward military anthems and Linda Ronstadt’s, “You’re No Good.”

I remember one particularly grouchy afternoon at my grandmother’s home. Nene could not be cajoled or convinced into thinking anything other than the world was coming to an end and she had to meet it with her lungs giving full voice to her song of woe. My grandmother, mom, and I were stretching to our respective wit’s end. Four generations of women were about to implode and bring Nene’s prediction to fruition.

When the tension and noise finally reached ‘this will drive out the armed fanatics holed up in the house’ level, my mom asked if there was anything else to try. I said well, it sounds odd, but we can try the “Marine’s Hymn.” Mama and Mom looked at me like I was nuts, but at this point it was that or actually call in the Marines. So, I started in with, “From the halls of Montezuma…” And it worked!

Mama and Mom started chiming in and Nene fell into a stupor that would have won a prize on “America’s Funniest Videos.” By the time we finished “Anchors Away”, she was out, lolled over in her little yellow walker. Always her own, that kid.

Sixteen or so years later, Yoda was a completely different story. He definitely preferred the more melodic, slow tempo themes. Often I would hum as smoothly and dolce as I could muster the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or a quiet version of some folk song culled from my memory of “Sing Along with Mitch.” But the one song that would always close the deal, was “Little Red Caboose.”

Now if you Google this song, you will more than likely be bombarded with versions containing inane adults wearing engineer outfits and singing the lyrics in an over the top Barney fashion. The version I sang was one I found in my collection of old 45rpm single records – a slow spiritual, one sung or hummed right gives the slow, rhythmic rocking of a train moving down the tracks. It was a perfect tune for an active and sensory issued baby.

One afternoon while Yoda and I were out visiting my parents, he had reached his infant tolerance for sociability and began to fuss. So, at that point I swaddled him up tight and removed myself to the dining area to try and calm him down before it went over the top. I could recognized the signs a wee better with the second child…

My Mom stepped off to I don’t know where, to give us space to work I guess. My Dad went to sit in his chair in the living room, not too far from where I was sitting with Yoda. I began to run through my repertoire of songs and then moved in with the closer of “Caboose.”

I rocked, sang, and the hummed for about 5 minutes and the little guy finally settled into a nice little nap. I could even hear a small snore. I smiled and listened again. This wasn’t Yoda’s snargle (what we had termed his breathing issue common to baby boys when born small – another story). I turned my ear to the sound again and realized that my Dad had fallen asleep!

When it came time for me to leave my parents’ house that afternoon and I went over to say goodbye to Dad, he pulled me in and thanked me. When I asked what for, he said it had been a very long time since anyone had sung him to sleep.

Eleven years have gone by and it still brings a smile to my face to remember the time I sang a lullaby to my Dad.

Sleep well, Deddy-O, sleep well.

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Drive In

We went to see Disney’s Cars 2 (overly long) this weekend and that got me thinking about my own early driving history.

I found a letter from my father not too long ago, which I will share in a couple of weeks on his birthday, but one line in it reminded me of how young I was when I started driving.

“In 1981 dollars the 50 ft drive would cost about $225,000 per mile”.

As you can well imagine, my first driving experience wasn’t a great success.

It was in Memphis, Tennessee, 1963 and our family had grown to four kids. My parents were out looking at houses to fit their extended brood. My younger brother and I had been placed in the front seat of the car while my parents finished speaking with the real estate agent.

In those days there were no requisite car seats. An enterprising youngster could stand on the broad bench seat, play with the radio and pretend to drive.

While my parents talked, I tried my hand at driving. So what did I do?  I mimicked what I had seen.  Put the imaginary key in, grab the wheel give it few turns back and forth with some zoom, zoom sound effects and then…shift.

One other note about cars back then, gears didn’t necessarily lock on automatic transmissions when the car was stopped and the key removed.

Now a geography lesson, parts of Memphis are quite hilly.  Many houses are built with good sloping driveways.  We happened to be parked on one.  When I shifted the gear lever, it went from park to neutral quite smoothly and my nine month old brother and I were off on our very first solo drive together.

I cannot imagine our parent’s horror as they watched their car starting down that hill and  carrying their two youngest children across a four lane street with oncoming traffic. I have visions of them doing the slow motion outreach, “Nooooooo….!”.

It was okay though, there was a house across that street to stop us.

The car crashed into the front of the house just under a large picture window.

We were fine. My brother didn’t even roll off the front seat.

Surprisingly, my dad says the car wasn’t damaged.  They sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

The our joy ride blockade didn’t fare as well, hence the inflationary comment above.  Would loved to have seen that insurance report write up.

I have three memories from the event.  Seeing Mom & Dad outside of the car, being pulled out of the car and the physical sensation that equates to “Wheeeeee!”.

My driving career was somewhat curtailed until legal driving age after that.  But I’ll be danged I didn’t develop quite a love for roller coasters.