My Song

Each child was given a song. It began by accident, a moment of mindless mutterings. Pacing the floor at two in the morning I moved from a maternal sway to a desperate but contained mother’s bounce. I’d been through all the nursery rhymes but the one thing that seemed to soothe her was my own two sentences. I sang them over and over, whispering them in her ear.

Oh Elizabeth I loooove you.

Yes Elizabeth I loooove you.

The tune unrecognisable, the mantra incomplete. The next day I added a few more bars.

Won’t you come with me

Around the world

Together we, we’ll make a family

Oh Elizabeth I loooove you

Yes Elizabeth I looove you.

When the second little traveller arrived two years later the process evolved in the same way. Late night bonding, floor pacing. This time I borrowed a tune, John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy became Beautiful Annabelle.

Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful Annabelle

With eyes so bright

it’s no surprise

when we saw you it was love at first sight

you travelled so well it was easy to tell

you were going to be a beautiful girl

beautiful beautiful beautiful Annabelle

We’d left KL when she was a few weeks old. As we sat in our dodgy share house in Libya, both carless and friendless, two year old Lizzie helped me sing the song.

“Now we sing my song?” we alternated between the two, over and over. How I didn’t go completely batshit crazy over those few months remains a mystery.

When the third little traveller came along the song was upbeat and reflective of life with his sisters. They both couldn’t get enough of him. Both wanting to hold him, touch him, poke him, play with him. I called them his personal cheer squad. I’d seen Bye Bye Birdie as a kid and remembered the scene of the girls squealing on Conrad’s arrival. Conrad became Freddy.

We love you Freddy,

oh yes we dooooo

We love you Freddy

Oh how it’s trueeeee

When you’re not near us

We’re blueeeeeee

Oh Freddy we love you.

I whispered it not only to calm him but to save myself a night on the stage. If the girls heard just a snippet of the opening line I was immediately heckled “Can you sing my song next, sing my song!” I was a cocky in a cage; dance cocky, sing cocky. Sing it again Mum, sing it again!

When the fourth little traveller arrived it was a communal effort. We worked on it for a few days, the three travellers kicked it off and I filled in the gaps.

I had a little brother

his name was Henry Bruce

I wrapped him in a blanket so he couldn’t get loose.

He pulled a funny face, he wriggled and he squirmed,

we called out Henry Hotdog you’re a great big worm!

He came home from the hospital

Looking like no other

Wasn’t Mummy clever

For making a little brother

I know, I didn’t make him on my own, G helped, but Daddy didn’t fit in the verse and I was sleep deprived with four children under six. I could have left myself out of the song, but no, no I couldn’t, I wasn’t leaving myself out of the song .

Those songs have stayed in my head. Until now I’ve never written them down. As the little travellers grew the requests for the songs slowed. Books were read at bedtime, conversations were had while we shared a pillow. Bedtime no longer require a one act show.

At the end of the third little travellers birthday this week, a day where I’d found myself glancing towards he and his friends while marvelling over how long his limbs had grown. At the end of the day when the movie was done, teeth were brushed and heads were on pillows he climbed out of bed and called out for me from the top of the stairs. He had one final birthday request.

“Can you sing my song”.

As I stroked his cheek and whisper sang the song I felt the tension building at the final verse. I knew what was coming. From across the room, a different bed, a different child. “Can you sing mine now too?” And then from a different room, the voice of the second little traveller “And mine too please”. “I’m after her” said the fourth and final request.

I sang with gusto.

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