This Grandmom’s Favorite Lullaby
BY DEBORAH LEVIN
“You sing yourself a lullaby?” my daughter asked, incredulously.
“Yes,” I answered matter-of-factly, adding, “I memorized the words.”
“Really? I don’t even know the words, and I’ve heard the song a million times.”
“Want me to sing them to you?” I said. “Oh, wait, I can’t sing. But I can say them.”
I turned around in my seat to face my 3 ½-year-old grandson. He’s the one who always asks, “Mommy can you play the sleep song?” when they’re in the car. There’s nothing that little boy likes much better than a good car nap. The first time I heard it, he told me the song was Billy Joel. I had no idea. All I knew was that it had a lovely cadence and included the words, “good night, angel, sleep, dream.”
Later in the day, I said to my daughter, “I kept hearing the word, angel. Is the song about a child who died?” The idea of losing a child was way too scary for me, and definitely not something I’d want my precious grandchildren to hear. “I don’t know,” she answered.
But I had to know. So that night I went to my computer and searched for the origin of the song. Sure enough, it was written by Billy Joel for his seven-year-old daughter who, I was happy to hear, was not dead. But the song did speak to the topic of death. His daughter had questions, and he set his response to music that morphed into a lullaby.
Good night, my angel, time to close your eyes. It was a beautiful ode from a loving father to his child, reassuring her of their forever bond. I printed out the lyrics and memorized them.
I searched further and found a YouTube video that I saved to my Notes folder, then watched over and over again. Dramatically choreographed in black and white, it showed Billy Joel tenderly and intensely playing the piano against background scenes of doves floating in the sky and children in angel costumes, white wings fluffed and flowing in the wind as they ran through fields and along the beach. The images imprinted on my brain, the melody in my heart.
You will always be a part of me. A string of musical notes connects me to my grown child and her growing children who live far away. Those words keep me going. And sleeping. Each night when I lay my head on my pillow, I sing that lullaby in my head until I fall into the sweet slumber of an innocent 3-year-old.
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
Then you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark and deep, inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – DEBORAH LEVIN
Deborah Levin lives in Westchester county, NY with her husband and lovable Labradoodle. Her work has been published in the New York Times and Clinical Social Work journals.