I have no idea why I wanted to tackle this post tonight. I am plainly not up to the task. I have PMS (which always makes me extra-emotional) and this is the most hot-button of all hot-button topics for me when it comes to motherhood and emotion. But...it was on my mind, so here I go:
Ever since I was a little child, the movie Dumbo has made me cry. You know (and I've posted about this before, during "the wait"), the scene where Dumbo's mom is sent to jail for doing something wrong at the circus (I can't remember what because I haven't been able to watch the movie since I was like ten, it has such a strong effect on me). I think she probably didn't want to be in the circus to begin with, right? Anyway...best not to remember (shudder, sob!)
So...she's in prison, and Dumbo finds her, and he's very upset (as would you be!) and she puts her trunk through the bars and cradles him, and sings him this lullaby....to comfort him...while she's stuck in jail, being abused if I remember correctly. (Did you guys see the same movie? Or am I imagining all of this. But then, Disney flicks were a lot more harsh and a lot less sterile back then. I don't suppose any of us born in the '60s or 70's will ever forget what happened to Bambi's mom. Some of us have been permanently scarred).
OK. See......here's the problem. I am now a dripping, shuddering puddle of tears. My nose is stopped up and I can hardly breath. Tears are streaming down my face. I can't even describe the scene without bawling. I can't even look at the above picture without falling apart (even though it's not the exact scene I'm talking about...that one would destroy me. It would probably take me days to recover completely).
So...back to my story.
Here's the thing. Somewhere in the piles of shower gifts we received after QQ came home, she-who-loves-wrappings found a card.
It's one of those cards that plays music when you open it.
And the music is....you guessed it! Dumbo's mom's lullaby: Baby Mine.
Oh, sheesh. Even typing "Baby Mine" makes me cry. For heaven's sake.
And the thing is: she loved it. She loved it so much that she has not destroyed it...has not folded, punched or spindled it, has not drooled-on, chewed or ripped it. She has saved it.
From time to time, she moves it from one part of the house to another. I can hear it when she finds it again, opens it, and the distant, tinny notes strike dread in my sensitive heart.
This is, I have to say, officially my kiddo's favorite lullaby. Though, that could just be because it's sung by someone other than her mother, someone with a lovely, honeyed, Hollywood-ready voice. It in no way resembles the tuneless, off-key caterwalling that her mom calls "singing".
But I don't think it's just that. She truly loves the song.
And, it has to be admitted, it's a beautiful lullaby...a classic. One would expect nothing less from the peerless vintage Disney.
One day, I thought - suck it up, mom. She obviously loves it. Sing the poor kid some Baby Mine and let her drift into naptime content.
...I tried. Really, I did. I braced myself. I girded my loins (if you will) (not literally). I stiffened my upper lip, though I am far from British. And I started, in a high, quavery, very out-of-tune mezzo-soprano:
"Baaaa-byyyyyy miiiiine...don't you cry.....Baaaaaabyyyyyyy miiiiiiiine, dry your eyes....lay your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine........"
OK, truthfully, I never even got that far. I maybe got to the second "baby mine" before my voice cracked and I had to run away and pretend to make a grilled cheese sandwich so that QQ (who is very sensitive to such things) would not see mommy crying.
Because, here's the thing: when I was little, the song related to my own mother. My mother, who was diagnosed with a rampant case of cancer when I was barely eight years old. My mother who, even before the cancer, I had always feared losing.
I was an only child, and my mother and I were close. Very close. Although we are in many ways very different as adult women, we were always two peas in a pod...perfectly compatible. We were inseparable from the get-go. And for some reason, even from an age when most children have yet to develop a fear of death, I always feared that I would somehow lose her, that we would in some way be separated. Didn't matter how or why - the very thought used to bring me to tears. And I wasn't a child who cried much...or at all.
My mother, on the other hand, was always a crier. A stray dog, a sad story, pretty much any movie you can think of (don't even let her near Old Yeller) had her tearing up. I couldn't understand it. I'm pretty sure I used to roll my eyes. For me, Dumbo was basically it...my one trigger. The only thing that could bring me to tears. I guess you can imagine what my greatest fear in life was.
So...it happened. Sweet justice. About six months into the adoption process, loooooong before we ever hoped to see our daughter's first pictures, M. and I became sentimental. We would get teary-eyed at sappy commercials, at news stories about children, at old dogs in the pound, at gophers being run over in the street. I actually had to walk out of the new version of King Kong before the Empire State building scene, because I was crying so hard I couldn't breath. Somewhere in there, during the process, our sentimental genes kicked in. We underwent the first stages of our transformation into parenthood.
Now? It's hopeless. And I fully expect to experience that moment (hopefully still a few years down the line) when QQ rolls her eyes at my unbridalled sentimentality. And it will serve me right.
One night, in the weeks after QQ's surgery, when I got up in the night to comfort her crying and take her into the other bedroom to sooth her to sleep, I lay down next to her, and as her tiny, warm body relaxed, as her breathing slowed and she drifted into comfortable unconsciousness, I heard that Dumbo lullaby in my head, and I wept silent tears for my daughter, and how deeply I loved her.
A few days ago, the Dumbo lullaby showed up on a friend's blog. And this afternoon, as QQ was wandering the perimeters of her realm, I heard her open the card and play the lullaby in another room. While out on our run tonight, I called my mother for our monthly check-in, and told her the story about the Dumbo lullaby, and how it has come back to haunt me.
"That's amazing!" she said. "Because I have never been able to watch that movie either. It does the same thing to me."
She described how, in her childhood, she had related it not to her closeness to her mother, but to the fact that her mother had sent her away to boarding school after her sister was born when she was just six years old. She had related it to her loneliness, her lack of a mother to comfort her. A very different story from mine.
And I realized...my own mother's sadness at that story, that song, must have transferred to me somewhere along the line. I must have felt her sadness, and interpreted it in my own way - through my own fear - that of losing my mother whom I loved above all else in life.
I wonder if, somehow, hard as I try to conceal my emotion from her, my reaction to that song will transfer itself to my daughter. I wonder if she will interpret it in her own way. I hope that, should that be the case, she will not relate it to the lack of a mother, but rather to the love of a mother.
But who knows. QQ has, after all, already lost a mother once. She has lost a mother that neither she nor I may ever come to know. Maybe those early Disney flicks had it right...life is tough all over. We lose people. We live our lives colored by that loss, or by the fear of that loss, or by the love/hate relationship many of us have with our parents.
All I know at this very moment is that the love I had and have for my mother has fully transferred and manifested itself with the love I am cultivating with my daughter - the daughter who did not grow in my body, but who is currently growing in my heart. Motherhood takes any number of different forms. It is amazing, joyful, tragic, difficult, and complex by turns. And for the moment, all I want to say is....
"Baby mine, don't you cry........."