MOTHER HAS TAKEN THOSE THORNS
By Julia Soto Lebentritt
As a person who has always collected songs of the cradle, the importance of lullabies was affirmed by a message that I sent out on the internet like a message in a bottle.
Suddenly from the other side of the universe, a translation from Danish to English of poet Christian Richardts beautiful words arrived. In Bay Ridge, I had recorded a Danish-American grandmother singing "Sov, mit barn, sov laenge", a very old lullaby that everybody in Denmark knows. She first gave me an idea about the content of the poem. She pointed out that the mother is trying to make her child comfortable by telling her not to worry. She tells the child not to forget her mother. She tells her that the red beautiful roses have thorns. Mother has taken those thorns. She wants her child to sleep the whole night and wake up every morning with a smile.
After 9.11 World Trade Towers collapsed, the children of the FDNY widow who also lost her dad in the following November air bus jet crash in Queens went to bed at night asking not only for their daddy, but also for their abuelo. They want to know, "Why is everybody dying? Are they going to come home out of the building together?"
Now more than ever, we need lullabies to create extra security in our lives. A Dominican neighbor, Tomasina Luna Gritz, serenades her children: "Do not get scared child, because I am with you, and I give you warmth. Do not get scared child, do not lose your faith. No te asuste ninas que te doy calor. No te asuste ninas no pierda la fe."
A mother and daughter in New York City cry a lot at bedtime because daddy is missing. They sing together: "My Bonnie lies over the ocean, My Bonnie lies over the sea...."
Always in frightening times, storms, wars, separations, losses, people soothe and relax their children and themselves by taking time to talk, listen, sing, and tell stories beside the bed together.
Lullabies can recreate the security of the womb for a child. The rhythms and repetitions of the songs soothe like a mother's close heartbeat. When we cannot explain where a daddy, or mommy, or the buildings are, we guide our children into safety with lullabies. "Come," mother croons, "build your nest in my branches tall and I'll rock you to sleep, and I'll rock you to and fro."
Lullabies have been around since ancient times for the purpose of putting a child to sleep, and saying goodbye for a while. In Spain, poet Federico Garcia Lorca found this song: Lullaby, my child, oh we will build a hut in the country and go inside. We must make ourselves smaller, tiny, and the walls of the little hut will touch our skin. We must live in a tiny place. If we can, we will live inside an orange, you and me. Even better inside a grape.
We can call our big problems "Abiyoyos" after the giant that Pete Seeger found in an old South African folktale. The giant Abiyoyo was sung to sleep by a boy who chanted his name over and over while his father played music and all the village parents and children joined in singing together: "ABIYOYO, ABIYOYO, ABIYO YO ABI YO YO" over and over, quieter and quieter. The giant danced, danced, and slowly fell down and fast asleep.
If enough parents pass on the right customs and traditions, our fragile home on earth will survive hundreds of years from now with parents singing lullabies when children cry.