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.