STLT#409, Sleep, My Child

When I was a little girl, my mom would come to tuck me in every night and sing lullabies to me. Now I’m pretty certain some of the songs weren’t actually lullabies, but many of them were. She had a rich alto voice, and she loved to sing. At one point, she put the songs on a cassette that met its untimely death by water damage. But I can still remember her sitting on my bed, singing one after another like a lullaby medley.

In fact, Mom sang a lot. She’d sing morning songs, like “Good Morning” from Singin’ in the Rain, from the bottom of the stairs to wake us up. She’d sing “Poor Jud” from Oklahoma to help her keep time when kneading bread. She’d sing doing chores, driving places, gardening, or just when a song struck her.

And you wonder where I get it from.

Mom died ten years ago this month, and it feels simultaneously like so long ago and just yesterday. And in fact, the memory of her sitting on the side of my bed, singing to me all those years ago (lordy, half a century ago!), feels fresh and present. For all our struggles – because what strong daughter doesn’t have some struggles with their strong mother – Mom was a deeply compassionate, loving, caring, funny, creative woman. I get some of my fierceness from her, along with her eye for detail, a love of language, skill in the kitchen, and of course the music.

Including this beautiful lullaby.

And now, apparently, my spiritual practice this morning is to sit on the sofa with the hymnal on my lap, computer open and waiting, bawling my eyes out and not actually singing.

Sleep, my child, and peace attend you, all through the night.
I who love you shall be near you, all through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping, all through the night.

Mother, I can feel you near me, all through the night.
Father, I know you can hear me, all through the night.
And when I am your age nearly,
still I will remember clearly,
how you sang and held me dearly, all through the night.

While the moon her watch is keeping, all through the night;
while one-half the world is sleeping, all through the night.
Even while the sun comes stealing,
visions of the day revealing,
breathes a pure and holy feeling, all through the night.

This traditional lullaby has been adapted by Alicia Carpenter but I don’t notice a difference between what is on the page and what I remember… and frankly, I haven’t the wherewithal to care at the moment.

It’s lovely, and sad, and sweet, and now I know why I will never use it – because it wouldn’t do to have the minister baptize the child with tears.

Mom loved Colonial-era décor, and our house was an early American marvel when she got done with it. We’d often go to historical sites for day trips and vacations, and this photo of a cradle also reminds me of her.

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