Songs from the Mama-Heart

I’ve just returned from Dublin. We had nine glorious days there—with not one drop of rain. And, believe it or not, 8 of those 9 days were sunny! It must be some kind of record.

But of course we didn’t go to Ireland for the weather. We went to be with our daughter and granddaughter (and son-in-law, when he wasn’t working). In a sense, our 9 days there were very ordinary. What we wanted most to do was just “hang out” with Erika and Gabriella.

And that’s what we did. We took long walks with Gabriella in the “buggy” (what the Irish call strollers). We did a little shopping here and there—at Avoca in a beautiful place called Powers Court, at IKEA (well, more than a little shopping there, IKEA being nearly a city in itself), and even at local supermarkets. We visited “Kiddlywinks,” a large playgroup that meets at their church every Friday morning. We got to go in and get Gigi (Gabriella’s nickname) out of her “cot” (what we call a “crib”) after naptime and savor the huge grin and sweet hugs fresh from a well-rested baby.

In a sense, ordinary days. But of course not ordinary at all for this “Nana and Farfar,” who have to fly so many miles to experience them. The days always fly by too fast. And the trip home is always long. The westbound flight actually is an hour or so longer than the eastbound flight. But it feels even longer than that because my “Nana heart” feels we’re flying in the wrong direction.

But I come home with sweet memories—and music in my heart. One reason for that is that Gabriella absolutely loves music.—any kind. And dancing. At the least hint of music from any source, be it a CD or a toy or even a cell phone, she moves and grooves to the music. She is very much like her mother was in that it is almost physically impossible for her to remain still when the music starts.

Music is truly a great gift for Gabriella—and her mother. When she is sad, it soothes her. When she is cranky, it picks up her mood. When she is bored, it energizes her. She has music in her soul.

Which brings me to the “Mama-songs” in the title. One of my favorite memories from last week is getting to put Gigi to bed one night when we “traded rooms” with Erika and Richie, sending them for a night out for dinner and a movie and then overnight at a B&B while we stayed at their place and took care of Gabriella.

Before they left, I went over Gigi’s bedtime rituals with Erika. These involve reading a couple of board books with her, getting her “soother” (pacifier) and favorite stuffed animal Hammie out of the cot, and rocking her and singing to her before putting her to bed.

“What songs do you sing?” I asked Erika. “ ‘Children of the Heavenly Father,’ ‘Peace,’ and ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd,’” she said.

Suddenly I was taken back many years, for the first two songs are the songs I sang to all my children when I put them to bed. The first is especially precious—an old Swedish hymn that has been a vital part of life in my husband’s family for decades. We had it sung at our wedding, at the funerals of both Woody’s parents, and the music was used in the weddings of all three of our kids. I even tried to sing one verse in Swedish to our kids before bed, though I imagine a true Swede wouldn’t have recognized my butchered Swedish. The kids didn’t seem to mind.

As I rocked Gigi that night and sang to her, I could feel her settle and snuggle to the familiar songs. My mama-heart was flooded with memories. Memories of rocking and singing to my own children so long ago. But also a sweet memory from two Christmases ago. One night Erika had taken the then-newborn Gigi down to our lower level to calm her crying. She was rocking her and singing to her when our grandson Bengt slipped down the stairs and began to watch and listen from the bottom step. She was singing “Children of the Heavenly Father.”

“My Daddy sings that song to me,” Bengt said, mesmerized by the familiar music. “That’s my Daddy’s song.” Yes, it was. And is. And his daddy’s daddy’s song before that. And his great-grandfather and grandmother. Mommies and daddies of each generation probably sang that song to their babies.

It is a hymn reminding us all of God’s grace and protection in all the days—and nights—of our lives. In a sense it’s a grown-up song. The words probably mean very little to small children. They mean more, at the time, to the mommies and daddies who sing them, needing God’s love and grace and peace for another night—and another day.

But music touches the soul. It’s a beautiful way to live out Psalm 78:3-7: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord . . .”

Read the rest—and sing!

What songs are you singing to your children?