Sleep, little child, and dream for me

Dream me a white-plumed apple tree

All a-bloom in the early spring

Dream me a song to sing

-“Apple Tree,” Songs from Dreamland

English: Little Boy Blue illustration for Dens...

From lullabies to We-Sing videos, I spent hours and hours of my childhood singing. I never forgot what I sang. There was collection of lullabies called Songs from Dreamland that my parents played on a cassette tape for bedtime. I envisioned magical creatures stirring in the boughs of a massive tree as I drifted off to sleep as I listened to the song above.

These lyrics come from “Rain Lady” in the same album:

Soft in the darkness the Rain Lady comes

Twirling her with the tips of her thumbs

They were probably my first introduction to the power of comparing nature to human characteristics (I wouldn’t know till much later that it was called ‘anthropomorphism’).

When I was older, I glued my eyes to the colorful computer screen of the CD-ROM game “Mixed-Up Mother Goose.” The land of nursery rhymes was awash with confusion—Mary had lost her little lamb, Little Boy Blue couldn’t find his horn, and Jack Sprat and his wife desperately needed their ham for supper. When I returned the lost object to its owner, the characters would perform their nursery rhyme to thank me.

Humpty Dumpty, shown as a riddle with answer, ...

I remember asking myself, “Why did Humpty Dumpty sit on a wall and then fall and die?” (morbid for a six-year-old, but I was quite serious and sober). Why did Little Tommy Tucker sing for his supper, get bread and butter, than worry about finding a wife? (I could relate a little bit. I was two years old when I told my pediatrician that I was worried about finding myself a good husband).

With this baby on the way, I’m realizing that whatever songs I choose to play for my little one will burrow deep into his or her heart. Will I find songs that speak of beauty? Songs that have profound meaning? Songs that rhyme but make absolutely no sense? Will these songs form some of my child’s first memories?

To this day, I listen closely to song lyrics. I can’t help but hear them, trying to piece the meaning out of them.

Hush , little baby

Curl up in the moonbeam

Let all the stars kiss you

With silver wind songs.

From sparkling white snow lands

Come twinkling bright crystals

That cling to the branches

Of tall pretty blue spruce.

They drink from the river

That flows from my heart.

-Winter Lullaby, Elise Stephens

Do you remember song and rhymes from your childhood? Any clues about how they’ve impacted you?

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, Elise.
    I think your parents raised you well, and I think your child will be blessed with your gift of music.

    1. Thank you, Scott. That’s very encouraging to hear from you. Music is a powerful thing. I won’t forget that summer evening on the writers’ retreat when a bunch of us got together and just took turns singing songs out loud that were very meaningful to us. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of.

  2. Lovely! What a great mom you’re going to be. I think Humpty Dumpty referred to a political figure who was unpopular with the people so they made up nursery rhymes about him. Victorian England, I believe.

    1. Thank you, Jan! This mother-to-be is terrified of all the ways she’s going to mess up, and your words are comforting. I had no idea Humpty Dumpty was a veiled reference to a political figure. It makes more sense, now that you say it…

  3. Your lullaby is just beautiful, Elise!

    Many nursery rhymes were originally lessons of some type. (“Ring around the rosey” comes to mind; it was about the plague.)

    I agree with the others – what a great mother you will be!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! I remember the meaning behind Ring around the rosy–my mom told me that one. *Shudder* I wonder how many of the lessons have now been lost. And thank you for the kind words. Motherhood feels so close now!

  4. Beautiful post, Elise! For what it’s worth, I used Nicolette Larson’s Lullaby CD “Sleep Baby Sleep” as my son’s nighttime routine when he was a baby – he’s now 10 years old and STILL wants to hear it as he drops off to sleep at night. Lullabies have some powerful mojo. Good luck planning for the baby! It will be an amazing adventure!

    1. Thanks, Toddie! And thank you for the recommendation. I actually sang some of the Songs from Dreamland to my husband when we were lying in bed together. He liked them. Isn’t it funny how mesmerizing nighttime songs can be for us?

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