My Grandma used to sing a song to my sister and I when we were little, and I sang that same song to Luna on her first night home when I was at a loss on how to help her sleep. As soon as the words fell out of my mouth she calmed down, and from that moment onwards it worked without fail. Whether it was the words, or the sound of my voice softly singing to her, or a bit of both, I will never know. But our lullaby is made of golden sleepy dust, a blanket of comfort: our lullaby is the softest of hugs. My Grandma was told that her mother sang the lullaby to her when she was born, and while she sadly died only two weeks afterwards, her powerful voice still carries through the generations thanks to the song (amongst other things of course).
When I ask my mother and Grandma to give me one happy memory of a time when they were young mothers with their children, they both tell me the seaside, Norfolk in England. My mother says East Runton, my Grandma Sheringham. Some of my own favorite memories are from the beach in England, hunting for crabs in pools in the sand, watching for the tide to come in. My mother now lives in Norfolk, where she always dreamed of living back when she was a child. Norfolk by way of France and California. My Grandma remembers dressing her four girls in matching swimming costumes and proudly walking along the beach with them, and having fun when the torrential rain tried to ruin a holiday… My Grandad would lift each girl up and down so they could see the waves pounding on the sand during a storm. I can totally imagine him doing that too, and my mother and aunts having a great time despite being wet through and cold! My mother remembers a holiday in East Runton when we were little, with my father and a family friend, and she would chase after us pretending to be a lobster or a crab. I also remember my sister pretending to be a teapot, as in “I’m a little teapot, short and stout”. We were so little and my parents were so young…
My Nana would tell me all kinds of stories of her mother, and her sisters (I know, there are more women than men in my family, on all sides), of daredevil bike rides down hills without brakes, and flying over handlebars into ditches, and how they all looked out for one another, as children, teens, adults, and well into old age. Some of my earliest memories are with my Nana, and I still hear her voice in my head when I worry too much, because she would always talk me through things in a way that made them always seem less gigantic to me. I lived most of my life far away from my grandmothers, and then many years far away from my mother (and now do again), but it never felt like I was missing out on something, because they were always there. Even before the internet and immediate contact: we wrote letters and called, and visited, and I cherished all of these moments.
And now I am a mother too, and I often find it comforting to think that years before, my mother, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers, they were all holding their little babies and singing them back to sleep, and running after their toddlers on the beach, laughing so much that it hurt in a good way, worrying about the future, but still enjoying every second, even the ones when it was too much. It’s not Mother’s Day in the US until May, but my mother and Grandmother are in England where today is Mothering Sunday, and that is also where my Nana was laid to rest, in the same village I was christened in. You all know how much I love you.
Here are some words that I put together while cuddling Aurora to sleep last night…
Mother to Mother
Mother, Mama, Mummy, Maman,
The one who birthed you,
The one(s) who raised you
(Not always one and the same);
Sleepless nights – endless days, unconditional
Love and worry; heartache and joy.
We sing the same song, a lullaby,
A cadence that soothes a path
Through generations. The words fell
From my mouth naturally, the stars
Will run away with you: my voice, your voice,
Her voice, all of our voices as one.
We live on through each other,
Learning, falling, leaning, climbing:
Mother, Grandma, Nana, Mama.