The summer before my daughter Kate’s senior year of high school, she burned a CD of many of her favorite songs and gave it to me for my birthday. She pointed out one song in particular, “I Hope You Dance” sung by Lee Ann Womack, and told me that was “our” song, the song she and I would share our whole lives. No one had ever shared a song with me before, not even Kate’s dad, and it touched my heart. It also started a tradition.
About that same time my daughter Rose was developing a diverse love of music. It amazed me that she could find joy in listening to Bach and Pachelbel, Dylan and The Beatles, Streisand, Paul Simon, yes, even Sinatra, all the while listening to The Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, and Kurt Cobain. For a while she played one song repeatedly and the tune is etched in my mind but I do not know the name of the song. Whenever I hear it, I am immediately taken back in time to her high school years. But it wasn’t until Rose was in college that we found our song. One night I was making supper and Rose played a CD with the song “Hallelujah” sung by Jeff Buckley. After that, there was never any doubt about our song.
My daughter Emily is the musician in our family, playing seven different instruments. All through high school and college she was passionate about marching band and drum and bugle corps. Every summer she disappeared, touring across the country, playing in stadiums, marching in record-breaking heat, returning to us in late August looking like a trim and fit body builder. My relationship with Emily has improved quite a bit since she was in high school, but not to the point that she would admit “we” have a song. But we do. “Seven Nation Army” was the song her marching band played every Friday night as they escorted the football team onto the field. Rain or snow, hot Indian Summer evenings or freezing cold playoffs, they played that song. It is our song.
My youngest daughter and I have never really agreed on our song. No matter the song we eventually do agree on, for me our song will always be “Hush Little Baby.” It goes back to when Brianna was six months old and she came down with a sudden high fever and refused to eat or drink. I called our family doctor but he was out of the country on vacation. I gave Brianna some medicine which brought the fever down to a tolerable 100 degrees, but she would not let me put her down. If I set her in her crib she cried hysterically. I tried putting her next to me in my bed but she screamed just the same. I found myself in the rocking chair, gently singing, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word.” I didn’t know many of the words, but I sang it anyway. It calmed her and she fell asleep. Every time I attempted to get out of the rocking chair, she would wake and scream. So that night I slept sitting in the chair with Brianna on my lap facing me, her arms wrapped around my sides.
The next day I called and got an appointment with one of the other doctors in our clinic. She looked at Brianna and said, “If scarlet fever wasn’t so rare, I’d say that’s what she has.” Say what? The doctor went on to describe all of Brianna’s symptoms, right down to the “raspberry tongue”, but told me there was nothing that could be done. “I won’t say she has scarlet fever because that’s too rare. Whatever she has, it’s a virus and it has to run its course.” After much begging on my part, the doctor very reluctantly agreed to give me a stronger baby pain reliever. That’s all. I returned home and spent the next two days and nights sitting and sleeping in that rocking chair. And I learned every word to the song, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.” I’d give Brianna her meds then get as many liquids into her as she could take, because the meds seemed to work only for an hour or so. After that, her fever would spike and again she would refuse to eat or drink.
On the fourth day, our family doctor was back in the clinic and I pleaded with his nurse to squeeze us in. Brianna’s fever had come down and she was beginning to take more liquids, but she was still not herself. The doctor listened to my story and examined Brianna. “Sure sounds like scarlet fever to me,” he declared. He said she probably should have been admitted to the hospital, but that she was now on her way to recovering. He prescribed some more meds and praised me for being such a good mom. I cried. I was so exhausted and felt such affirmation that he understood.
For all of Brianna’s life, when I hear that lullaby I think of her, but she doesn’t like the song. Could it be she associates it with being sick? I’ve always wondered.
This past Mother’s Day, Brianna made a video for me and gave it to me as a gift. It was a collection of photos from all the years when my four daughters were growing up, and in the background was the song “We Found Love” sung by Alisha Popat. I’m not quite ready to accept that as our song, but it’s comforting to know that Brianna is still searching.