Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hobo's Lullaby


Last weekend I spent a few hours baby sitting with Katie for her niece. It was a relatively smooth evening until bedtime of course. It seems like Katie spends most of her time with Naomi, the 3 year old, while I entertain Annika, the 5 year old. I love Annika's philosophical mind. She asks questions constantly and asserts her ideas with the certainty of a tenured professor. This particular bed time featured her reading to me. Oh, she doesn't really read yet, that will come in a few months. What she does is make a huge effort to memorize the text of various story books, and then retell the story to me. At times she id dead accurate; her retelling can be word for word for a stretch. Then she regresses and makes something up that sounds logical. All the while I'm giving her cues and comments. "Yup, that's exactly what it says." While this is going on, Naomi is attempting to do the same thing. She flips the pages and tells Katie a few logical phrases and then is abruptly finished. While I was scrambling for a scary (but not too scary) story for Annika, Naomi was giving Katie fits squirming around, getting out of bed, throwing the pillow around and bouncing up and down. So, we started singing. Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer was the best received, but I kept scrambling for a Beatle tune or a clever kid's song to help the little girls focus. There must be hundreds of songs in my head, so why can't I come up with the entire lyrics for just a few. We tried Rocky Raccoon and Blackbird. We tried old standards and new novelty songs. Then it hit me. I need a lullaby. Out poured Hobo's Lullaby. Having sung this song for 7 years while part of "An Evening with Woody Guthrie," I let it rip. I sounded pretty good too.
Go to sleep you weary hobo,
Let the town's drift slowly by,
Can't you hear the steel rails hummin,'
That's the hobo's lullaby
Immediately Naomi snuggled up and Annika pulled her covers forward and turned on her side. I changed the verse about the "police cause you trouble" to the bad guys and kept going. Naomi's eyes closed and her thumb went into her mouth. Annika was still. I kept going singing softer and sweet as I could. It was working-well. When I ran out of verses I improvised some careful to keep rhyming with my voice becoming quieter and softer and as on key as I could muster. When I sang, "Go to sleep you weary hobo, don't forget your underwear, We can get some more tomorrow, and we'll wash it all with care," Katie started giggling, trying to stifle her laughter. I sang on. Naomi was out. Annika was still awake trying to figure out my lyrics and then mom and dad came home. Note to self: Bring plenty of lullabies and learn the complete lyrics to at least one song each week.

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