Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Lullaby for Mr. Mushpie

In the book Holes, the mother of one of the main characters sings a lullaby to her tweenage son. It's a touching moment that was not lost on our boys earlier this week as we came to the end of the novel during one of our nightly reading sessions.

I did my best to craft a melody for the lyrics the author had written. The German smiled sweetly and the Italian hid his face under his bedcovers as I sang. The book was closed to the muffled sounds of sniffling.

The German is not typically mischievous, but his reaction to his brother's sudden bout of sentimentality was to find a way to draw out a few more tears by asking if I would treat them to one of the songs I used to sing before they grew too big for lullabies. The Italian immediately protested.

When our children were infants, my primary defense against a baby too cranky to fall asleep was to sing. You'll never see me on American Idol, or even at a local karaoke night, belting out showtunes and crooning ballads. My ability to carry a tune surpasses only my natural athletic ability, if only because I have no natural athletic ability.

Sometimes I would hum a simple melody while cradling one of them in the crook of my arm. A gentle swaying kept them mesmerized by the passing blur of the ceiling above. Other times a proper song with distracting words was necessary to make the tiny bologna loaves focus on my face and the sound of my voice to help them drift away to dreamland. The song wouldn't end until they were resting peacefully in their cribs or pack 'n play.

One song became my go-to staple in the battle against unsleepy babies: "Hymn," a 1997 song by Jars of Clay. I didn't abuse it. Only if other methods failed would I summon its otherworldly power to drain the fight and fuss from an irritable infant. Several years later the song "Evermore" by Alison Krauss joined the evening bedtime playlist. When the German asked for a lullaby the other night, it was one of these two songs he wanted to hear.

"I hate those songs!" the Italian declared.

He doesn't really hate them. In fact, they move him so deeply that he can't keep from crying when they are played or sung. I have the same reaction to the song "When Somebody Loved Me" from the movie Toy Story 2. Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, whatever mood I'm in at the time, that song can melt me into a pool of tears.

"Evermore" wreaks such emotional havoc on the Italian that it once was responsible for a last-minute counseling session. He would play a game during which he would tell me he loved me to the value of ten. Without skipping a beat he would then say he loved his mother to the value of eleven. I would feign shock and sadness. One night, after he had hit the joke pretty hard, I sang "Evermore" as they crawled into bed. Tears soaked his pillow even before I reached the end of the first chorus. When asked what was wrong, he cried: "I didn't mean it. I love you both the same!"

So, when our troublesome Teutonic redhead requested a command performance of their lullabies the other night, I deferred to the Italian's protests and issued a 24-hour warning to expect the songs the following night.

The advance notice definitly helped. He needed only one tissue to get through both songs.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler


  1. Oh, Mark...Cherish these moments, because way too soon, they'll be taller than you and too old for lullabies. But from the sounds of it, they will grow up to be wonderful young men...

  2. Sioux: They already are too old for lullabies, they just don't realize it yet. And I'm okay with that.