While listening to "Sound and Spirit" on NPR last night I heard this folk singer woman talking about the need for what she called "hostile rocking songs." Hostile rocking songs are songs that can be sung in a sweet voice with a sweet melody to a not so sweet, inconsolable baby. They sound like any other lullabies yet the lyrics offer something to the freaked out mother. A bit of help in a time when the unconditional love just isn't flowing.
These are the words of Rosalie Sorrel's hostile rocking song. "Today is the day we give babies away with a half a pound of tea. If you know any ladies who want any babies then send them around to me."
I have been singing this song ever since.
Esther has been suffering from frequent bouts of the giggles lately. Last night after dinner it came over her, as it does, without warning. Giggle-itis, you may vaguely recall, is manifested by an irrepressible urge to laugh for any or no reason at all.
One minute she will be calmly eating dinner, popping edamame beans into her mouth like they were M&M's and the next thing you know her voice starts to take on this slightly drunken quality and everything she says makes her laugh hysterically. It begins in spurts, where one minute she is fine then the next she is overcome. Then, as with labor, the contractions get closer and closer together until eventually she is no longer capable of speaking at all, or of sitting at the table, or even staying upright. She must retreat to the adjoining living room, sprawl out on the rug and just ride it out in a glorious sputtering heap of spontaneous joy.
Ian and I then become two joyless spectators. When I say joyless I don't mean we don't take some joy in the sight of this ridiculously happy child in front of us, but we can't really feel it. We're not really sharing it. Why? Because we can't. Because somewhere along the way from breezy childhood to stuffy adulthood we have built up an immunity to giggleitis.
This is a thing that comes up again and again. Esther will be racing from swingset to jungle gym to slide as the sun sets over the empty playground and I will simply stand there, shivering and pleading with her to get in the car. "Esther we've got to get home and make dinner," I 'll say. "It's getting dark, it's getting cold, let's go." The fact is, I don't want to be standing on the playground anymore. I want to be in my warm house, drinking a glass of wine and contemplating the miles I have to go before I can sleep.
When did I become such a complete drag? Was I not once a fun person? Do I not like to play? Am I truly incapable of letting go of the minutia of life if even for an instant?
I used to consider myself a playful person. Even into my twenties, late nights out would often end up on the swing set behind the elementary school, pumping ourselves as high as we could --on the swingset that is-- to the tune of squealing metal chains.
There is no more late night swinging. And there is very little giggling. Of course I snicker and laugh at Esther's antics or Ian's dry Brit humor, but true giggling, that evervescent giddiness that bubbles up from the belly and actually hurts, just doesn't come over me that often.
So I am left to watch my delightfully giddy daughter crack herself up to the point of tears and wonder what on earth has me so firmly anchored to sobriety that I can't just surrender to the gods of silliness. And I must take solace in the fact that this little girl can feel so carefree, so completely untouched by all that is serious, and try not to envy her too much.