Last night, as sleep eluded me, partly due to my husband also tossing and turning beside me (we've ordered a new bed), and partly due to the strong cup of tea I had enjoyed late in the afternoon, I remembered a lullaby I had written long ago for my children, and I believe, for myself. A mother of three under five years old at the time, I had rare bursts of creativity in between the long, sleepless nights with an often sick baby and trips to the Tot Stop where mothers with young children went in search of company and sanity.
We were renting a lovely old house on the leafy end of Duncan Avenue in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. The house, added onto over the years, had a strange layout typical of houses of its age, with bedrooms right off the long and somewhat dark living room and the main bathroom off the tiny kitchen, but what it lacked in spacial sense, it made up for in character and homeliness. The wood stove gave lovely, warming heat, and was surrounded by an iron grate to keep it safe from little hands. It was an elegant looking house from the outside, with a peaked roof, and wraparound veranda, cedar shingles and teal blue trim. The yard was perfect for our children with a paved area for hockey and tricycles, a sandbox, and a swing hanging from the large tree near the end of the grassy plot - we even tried our inexperienced hand at growing vegetables. My husband worked from his home office upstairs, so most mornings I took the children out to give him some peace and quiet. The house was a few short blocks from the main street, which was full of interesting shops to explore on rainy days, all with a 'family friendly' policy - a basket of toys in the corner for the children of shopping parents. No shop was more popular with my kids than Whale's Tale Toys. A large Brio train set was set up in the front of the shop, and children were encouraged to play to their heart's content. We purchased many, many fine birthday presents at Whale's Tale: Lego, Playmobil, sand toys, marble tracks, trains, dinosaur figurines, games, puzzles...
On fine days, we risked the narrow sidewalk and bridge which led to the park with our stroller packed with baby Emma, snacks and essentials. The boys held on to the stroller, one on each side - most of the time. With relief, we entered the large park by the Puntledge river, and the children spilled out from under me, running for the climbing apparatus. On one of these days, I met my friend Barbara, who also had two small boys with a girl soon to follow. We had a great deal in common, and are still friends to this day, I'm happy to say. When it was time for lunch, we packed up our gear and braved the narrow trek home. I still remember how nerve-wracking it was to keep the kids close to me while the traffic whizzed by, cars occasionally honking at us for our audacity in walking by a busy road. I could have driven to the park, and sometimes did, but I have always had a rebellious attitude toward driving a distance easily reached on foot in fresh air. Besides, I needed the exercise. The sidewalks widened once we made a right turn onto Anderton Avenue, and then the boys could let go of their hold on the stroller and skip on ahead a bit. Home again, with Daddy down from his office for lunch, we reported our adventures to him. Afternoons were for quiet time and playing in the garden or with toys inside.
Twice a week I went for a long power walk with a walking group. Sharing parenting stories and tips and talking about our husbands and their work, our work and the challenges of potty-training, and the excitement of our children's 'firsts', we fought the battle of the thickening matronly waistline while we circumnavigated the neighbourhoods of our little world. We took a much needed break from chores, small tugging hands and the urgent high pitched calls of 'mo-o-o-o-m!' We walked by the river, mostly, but sometimes we drove over to Comox and walked down the Dogwood tree-lined hills to the ocean. Often we ended our walks with a visit to a cafe where I usually ordered a newly discovered favourite, steamed milk with a shot of vanilla syrup. My husband was on a Comox soccer team at the time and had many days and evenings out, so I took my turn too.
Still, amid these happy times on Duncan Avenue were interspersed some long spells I like to call 'The Black Hole'. Driven to tears by lack of sleep and a Houdini of a baby in the grocery store, by living far from family, and from riding the waves of a fairly new marriage to an energetic Type A personality husband who I am sure was sometimes baffled, albeit lovingly, by the fits and starts of his elated, exhausted, disorganized partner in life, I spent days on end in mere survival mode. I believe it was when coming out of one of these Black Holes that I wrote the aforementioned lullaby. For years, my children requested this imperfect poem set to music, among many other night-time songs which embedded themselves in the fabric of their beings.
One day, perhaps, these songs will be brought to light again with their own children, just as the songs my parents sang to us were carried down through the years, at first silently hidden and then emerging shining like gems once again with our own voices, exuding warmth, comfort and safety to both the hearer and the singer, lulling them to sleep after a long day of work and play.
Spirit of slumber, come down to me,
Settle my restless mind
Still my body, let my thoughts roll away like a parting sea
Sail on through, sail on through
Ship of slumber
Deliver me to
That uncharted territory,
The photo above is one I took of the house and garden on Duncan Avenue, shortly after we moved in. The three foot evidence of the moving-day snowstorm had obviously melted by the time I took the picture.
Happy Weekend everyone, and sweet dreams!