Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lovesongs & Lullabies

I used to think a good love song was the most sure fire way to evoke the strongest of emotions. What greater love is there than that of the unrequited, unfulfilled and irrevocably broken heart, I used to ask myself. At the time, of course, I was the not so proud owner of said lonely and shattered heart. I spent many a night pining away for the man I thought was the love of my life. It came to me much later, the knowledge that he truly was only a boy. I see that now, but at the time, oh so many years ago, and for more years than he was worth, I carried a torch and would gladly open my door, at any hour, if he came a calling. And any good love song with lyrics to soothe my aching heart, was worth listening to in my little world.

Me and the girls(friends not breasts) spent many a night over too many to count bottles of good, no wait, bad, really bad, wine, or if it had been a good tip week, some really excellent Stoli or even better, Bombay Sapphire, lamenting the ways of the world and our tired hearts. We had big aspirations, mind you, we were all career girls, college students and later graduate school too. Our school loans were not so wisely, or depending on your perspective, very wisely, used to fund many an international trip. We traveled, we worked, we played, we did it all. And through it all, one of us could usually be counted on to harbor a broken heart to lug along and make the trip a little more dramatic. We'd circle the wagons and commiserate together. And always there was music to accompany the saga. A chorus of "There's no sunshine when you're gone." or a few notes from Billie Holiday were sure to release a few tears, only after the liquid therapy had had a chance to free up those not so buried emotions.

And then slowly, we fell. One by one. Love. Marriage. The baby carriage. Life seemed to work itself out. For awhile.

I could still hear an old love song and hearken my way back to those days gone by, romanticized now, a bygone, the path not taken, the what ifs. Love songs were always good for a melancholy moment.

And even after I had my first two babies. Still the love songs would beckon. Invite me to reminisce. Indulge for a moment in what might have been. I'd let them take me away to the place I used to be. The place where there were no boundaries, where my dreams soared and my future was open and endless. A time when I thought I knew myself so well, when in reality, I didn't know myself at all.

I was young and neither my head nor my heart had even the tiniest of inklings of what they would one day learn and need to survive. I was naive in the most beautiful sense of the word. Everything I had 'lived' through was deliciously pedestrian. Not that I knew it at the time. And believe me when I tell you there was a time, a night of alcohol, good-bye love letters, broken glass and blood when I thought it was so much more dire and hopeless than it ever really was. But that's a story and a post, that may never be written....

As the days passed and the years accumulated, I still allowed myself that luxury of listening. I let the love songs tell their story and I found comfort in the verses. They told tales of longing I no longer knew, yearnings of young love and wishes of hearts wanting desperately to be loved. Something about those melodies was familiar and comforting to me. Fairytales is what they were. And everyone knows fairytales aren't real.

And then there was THAT day. The day where in a moment, it all changed.

I felt a pain that had never been told of in a love song.

Fairlytales didn't belong in this world anymore. Lost love would have been a relief. A broken heart over a non-committal suitor hardly seemed worth the effort. Was it ever?

Sitting alone at night in those first, long, lonely, dark nights after losing Caleb, I searched for comfort in music. The old standards didn't bring it. They could never speak to the loss of a child, the love a parent knows, the consuming pain of a parent who has just witnessed the birth and death of their dreams, of their tiny, lifeless, baby.

And then I started listening to lullabies. They were written for babies. They spoke to babies. They wished for babies. They longed for babies to have full lives, to know joy, to find comfort in their mother's arms, to play hard and sleep deep. To put their tiny hand into their father's larger one and walk together, to laugh at the sun and clouds, to dream of life and all it's possibilities, to imagine tales of dragons and growing old, to always know they are wanted and most of all... loved. Lullabies don't know the difference between a child born alive and a baby born dead. They sing the song of the heart of a parent, a parent who knows and wants these things long before their child is born, long before the world has defined them as 'real' or not. The lullabies may not have known my pain but they did know my yearning, my aching to tell my son these things, to have the chance to wish for him all the things he should have had.

And so it came to be that I would sit at night, again with a drink in hand, now always with good wine, although it could have been in a box and it wouldn't have tasted any different to my soured senses and how many bottles of good liquor were spent isn't a guess I'd like to venture....and I would listen to lullabies. I would let my heart bleed and my eyes drain until there seemed to be nothing left to release or sometimes just until the last ice cube had been resoundingly smashed between my teeth and the empty glass tucked away for another night. But those songs, oh those songs. Somehow those songs written to sooth and comfort did exactly that. And I remembered then, a cold winter day, years ago, standing abreast of my best friend from high schools graveside, huddled close to other friends as we sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" at his mother's request. And I understood now, so much more than I did then, why she wanted us to do that for him, for her, absolutely for her.

So many years later as I sat and listened and planned a funeral for my son, a funeral that we never had, (another post, maybe) all of the music I envisioned for him, for me, all of it, lullabies. Love songs have nothing on lullabies. They brought me comfort as I sat and felt my heart break wide open. Just as I imagine the chorus of young adults voices breaking over a cold and barren hillside on an early December morning brought comfort to my friends mom so many years ago.

I still listen to lovesongs. I think mostly they are silly. I often argue with them. If you love her/him, tell him. If they don't love you back, get on with it. Just get on with it.

I still listen to lullabies. They always make me cry. I often try to sing along, but can't. If you love your baby, you can't tell them enough. And they always love you back, if they get the chance. If they don't, you don't, get that chance, you have to learn, so gingerly, so painstakingly, how to get on with it. Just get on with it.

Caleb is my unfinished lullabye...I hear his song in my head but the lyrics are quiet.

And still, the other music will play on...the lovesongs and the lullabies. Always the lullabies.


Sue said...

"Always the lullabies."

Oh, me too. As I read your post, I imagined myself 12, 15, 20 years ago, imagining the heart broken by romantic love.

Puff the Magic Dragon has always made me cry, ever since I was a little girl. In college, Rod Stewart's rendition of Forever Young had us singing out loud; now I have to turn it off, change the channel.

Here's hoping I can manage the tears, should the time come for singing them.

Thank you for a beautiful post.

janis said...

what a beautiful post, k.
sometimes I interpret love songs as loss songs...

Hope's Mama said...

Oh K, I have been missing your posts for weeks. But this, this just stopped me in my tracks today. Not only is it nice to have you back, but it is just lovely to see words as beautiful as this on your return.
Thank you.

CLC said...

What a beautiful post. You just totally got me. Tears are now streaming down my face.

I remember after Hannah dying wondering how I could have ever cried over anything else, like unrequited love. That was like a walk in the park. It made me feel silly, like my whole life had been frivolous up until that day. I never could have imagined this pain, and I think that's why I am ok (meaning not angry at like I used to be) with other people not getting it now.

Thanks for this post.

Tash said...

See, this is why I cannot STAND the lullabies anymore. There was a harp player in the NICU when Maddy was there, and I began crying so hard, I made her leave. If I ever hear "Rainbow Connection" again I may get violent. As important as music was to my life, I tried fairly hard to make sure there weren't songs that were connected with Maddy so I wouldn't have to go through a life of getting the wind sucked out of me. I more or less succeeded.

Perhaps this is why when it came time to sing to Bella, who never slept anyway, that we always forgot the words to lullabies and started in with Patsy Cline. In other words, Love Songs. They'll remain my lullabies methinks while I quietly cover my ears to the rest.

Lovely, lovely post K. Always interesting to see where others musical trends lie.

Michele said...

What a beautiful post... I had to read it slowly, to savor it...

Music was one of those things that we sat around listening to in the early days. When we couldnt speak. Could barely breathe. There were songs I'd listened to my entire life that suddenly took on new meaning. "Blackbird"... "Yesterday"... "Walk On"... And finally, when the light poured in through an open window and we took a step outside "Here Comes The Sun"... I listen to them now and still get chills remembering those early days and how many of the lyrics spoke volumes that we couldnt find the words to say.

Aunt Becky said...

Beautiful post, love. Beautiful.

charmedgirl said...

i still can't even THINK of twinkle twinkle little star. and yeah, i never got tangled up in love songs, never got wrapped up in someone who didn't want me...never really got those songs. until that day, the day EVERY SONG was written about dead babies.

c. said...

I agree with Charmy, I think all love songs are deadbaby songs in disguise. I associate so many of them with our babies and I have to take pause each and every time I hear one. It's a life long torture, but so is having a deadbaby at all, really.

Beautiful post, K. XO.

Ya Chun said...

I can't imagine listening to a lullaby.

Aren't some about death tho (like ring a round a rosie - ok not a lullaby)?

Fireflyforever said...

This is such a beautiful post. Thank you K.

My husband made a montage of photographs for Emma, set to himself playing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" - not sure where that one fits generically. That's it for me now. That song will have me keening on the floor in seconds.

"Rock a Bye baby" pretty much destroys any semblance of self control I might have too.