The living room was empty, quiet. I walked through and heard a soft song, barely audible coming from behind a closed bedroom door just off the living room. I stood at the door and listened quietly, I heard this gentle, sweet singing, “I’ve been working on the railroad…..”
I knocked softly on the door and took a chance and slowly opened it trying not to make a sound. Sitting in the middle of the bed was our daughter, with her daughter, a blue-eyed cherub, a Gerber baby look-alike. Erin was cradling Lily Jewel in her lap, swaying backing and forth, tending her baby, singing a familiar song, singing in a way that was her mother almost 30 years ago.
Marty insisted that we always have music in our lives. We sang to our children loud and often. The singing filled the time, filled the quiet and seemed to soothe both of our children. As I looked in the bedroom that day I saw life come full circle as I listened to Erin sing, watching her holding her baby, rocking back and forth, soothing Lily to sleep. I was taken back to the days and nights spent singing songs, rocking and holding tight.
I didn’t know a lot of lullabies, “Rock-a-by-Baby” somehow seemed a bit cruel, what with the bough breaking and all and I struggled remembering the words to “The Missouri Waltz” though I can still hum the tune. Marty and I tended to the classics, “You are My Sunshine”, “Working on the Railroad” and of course the famous Disney piece, “Do Your Ears Hang Low”. The latter piece we eventually changed to “Do Your Boobs Hang Low” to keep the kids attention.
The rocking and singing centered in a large rocker recliner in our living room. It had a kind of checked cloth upholstery with large, scared wooden arms, it was really pretty ugly but it was very functional. Marty’s father bought that chair for me because he thought all men should have a recliner; he didn’t know it would have a higher purpose.
In our house, whoever was holding the kid had dibs on the rocker. I can still remember Marty holding Erin or Matt and slowly rocking back and forth, cradling an infant, singing a soft song and slowly caressing their cheek.
I didn’t know then how much I needed to remember those small moments, how important each of those little tiny events would become. It is amazing how haunting those small glimpses of the past become when the present becomes so radically different from what you had envisioned. It is amazing how often we overlook these small impactful moments only for us to try and revive those events years later when they are but tiny shards of a slipping memory.
My recurring lament is my beautiful grandchildren will never get to sit in their grandmother’s lap as she sings to them, as she rocks them, as she teaches them the little songs of our lives. I feel a sense of loss that these gorgeous lives will not be shaped by this woman. I want for them what Matt and Erin experienced, a full-throated, passion loving, possessive, controlling woman named Marty. The strokes not only robbed me and my children of years from her they took too much of her passion and fire from these new lives.
Then I see Erin, an image of her mother. The miracle of the cycle of life is that Matt and Erin, whether they try or not, whether they are aware or not will do unto Noah, Lily and Emma what was done unto them. They will shape these children in ways that are familiar to our family, to the lives we have lived; to the songs they have heard all of their lives. Through them Marty will impact the lives of their most precious gifts, their children, and through those children, probably unbeknownst to them, Marty will live on and shape their hearts and minds forever.
That afternoon, as I peaked in the bedroom, as I watched Erin and Lily for scant seconds that sadness, my lament, my grief, was assuaged just a bit. I watched and in my daughter, through Erin, I saw Marty, I saw her cradling that tiny life, I saw her years ago with Erin in her arms singing a song.