Sitting down to read a bit this morning, I hear my daughter start to hum. She is taking her bath. I keep an ear on things, because lately she’s taken to kidnapping one of the household pets for ‘company’ in the bathroom, and I hafta listen to make sure the grumbling of today’s victim stays on an aggrieved and inconvenienced pitch, instead of elevating to the yowl or yelp of terrified distress, because that means either a) Sierra’s actually tried to induce one of them into the bathtub/shower or b) he/she is having one of my girly supplies applied to its fuzzified person.
All was pretty peaceful this morning. Gracie-the-cat was today’s chosen victim (I’m astounded she doesn’t spazz when she gets carried into the bathroom). There was just the occasional, plaintive mewl of a pet whose been emotionally orphaned from any hope of rescue. I was trying to compose a reply to an e-mail, when suddenly the tune she was humming pushed through my preoccupation, and I froze for a second, listening.
It was the lullaby. The lullaby in the music box of my old, battered bear when I was a child; an old tune that still lingers in certain memories, but one that is in little circulation in real life, overtaken now by ‘rock-a-bye baby’ (that horrifying little Grimm’s fairytale) or more contemporarily, by Elmo ‘n’ crew.
This was the tune I made up words to, to sing to her when she was very small. I haven’t heard it since.
When I was a child, battered bear was not my favorite. I didn’t pass him down, for he was retired to a high shelf before Sierra was born. Not that he was a bad bear, mind you, he was just old-aged, even when I got him: A venerable fellow, the musician of my plush nightly-comfort crew. When a night particularly called for more than Kwalt tucked under my chin, and Blankie laid across my pillow, when a night was a real humdinger of strange nightmarishness, then battered bear would be wound up, and the tinkling sound of that familiar tune… old, authentic, with some pauses where the music box lagged, …that song would play.
And later, I sang it to her.
And now… does she remember that? Does she remember being held and rocked and sung to? I cross the hall. Stop. Listen. I can almost feel Gracie’s energy on the other side of the door, tensed for escape from her steaming purgatory.
Mark another mystery down to this endless wondering thing which is parenthood. If I open the door now, all she’s going to think about is the unforgivable release of Gracie. The song, if it is a real memory, something she can access in her head, will turn off in favor of complaints and accusation. If it is a remnant though, a sound her heart knows but her brain can’t manufacture, it will be gone like a dream when I open the door.
So I sit down right there in the hall, my back propped against the doorframe. I listen, marvelling at the strange shapes that life takes. A little white paw pokes out beneath the bathroom door, and I touch it so it curls upward like it’s trying to take hold of something, something that might not be there.
You and me both, Gracie.
You and me both.