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changing the classics

by Carrie Friedman

I sang Jimmie Davis’s You Are My Sunshine to our unborn children in the womb and while listening to the words coming out of my mouth, I was a little perturbed.  Sure, the tune is singsongy, you hear sunshine, you think warm and cozy:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

First of all, pressure much? My ONLY sunshine? Just one? We’re basically saying: Hey Kid, you’re mostly responsible for my moods – especially my happiness -  so don’t disappoint me or have a bad day, ‘kay? Also, you’ll never know how much I love you (because, let’s face it, love isn’t quantifiable or ever entirely knowable). Oh, and I am pleading with the universe to never take you away from me. What’s that? You didn’t know that could happen? WELL IT CAN. Hold on tight to me and to love because we are both undependable and transient. (And don’t get me started on the second verse: “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping. I dreamed I held you in my arms. When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, and I hung my head and cried.” Really? That’s it? You didn’t also slit your wrists? Because I want to cut MYSELF after hearing this.) Okay, baby, sleep tight.

So my husband (also a writer) and I massaged the language a tad, changing it to: “…You are my sunshine, one of my sunshines, you make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll always know, dear, how much I love you. Because I’ll tell you every day.” And this is what our daughters now sing to themselves and their dolls.

But the other day we overheard our older toddler daughter singing another lullaby to her babies and animals.

“Rockabye baby on the treetop. When the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”

Fortunately our daughter is still young enough that she doesn’t understand many of the words she repeats, like this tragic story about the cradle in a tree (‘cuz that’s totally safe to begin with).

The first couplet is fine…sort of. Why is the baby in a treetop? Who put the cradle up there?

Then, out of the blue, it’s not a question of IF the bough breaks, but WHEN. The baby falls, presumably to its bloody demise or life with serious brain damage.

I have a problem with my kid serenading her dolls with this death march.

So my husband and I rewrote this too. We’re really hoping it catches on:

“Rockabye baby on the treetop, when the wind blows your cradle will rock.

When you drift off and fall asleep, you’ll have sweet dreams, sleep so deep.”

Now isn’t that infinitely better and less doom and gloomy?

Stay tuned for my next installment on The Sound of Music: “You are 16, I’m a Nazi…”

Nighty night.


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