In talking to a friend just lately the topic turned to lullabies, ditties, children’s little songs taught to us by our parents and many others. Case in point:
‘.Go tell Aunt Nancy, go tell Aunt Nancy , go tell Aunt Nancy the old gray goose is dead. The one she’s been saving to make a feather bed” Another was “I went to meet my sweetie, she met me at the door, shoes and stockings in her hands, and foots all over the floor.” We thought that was pretty funny. But there was one we all knew, “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. If that mockingbird don’t sing, Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. If that diamond ring turns brass, Papa’s gonna buy you a looking-glass” and on and on to all kinds of marvelous things. There was “Rock-a-bye, Baby, in the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” Not too comforting thinking about it now.
Most of us learned “Now I lay me, down to sleep” from our mothers, but the “experts” say that “If I should die before I wake” is too stressful for little people. Maybe so, but at the time that was composed infant/early childhood death was so prevalent that most children understood. On one Doc Martin” , was asked by a little girl if she was gong to die, and his answer was, “We all do” n his grumpy manner, to be taken to task by an older patient.
We talked about all the songs we in Caswell County sang in chapel at our schools. Nearly always there was “Carolina, Carolina! Heaven’s blessings attend her.” We knew all the words “by heart”, and ended with Hooray! Hooray! The good Old North State, Hooray! Hooray! the Old North State forever”. When I mentioned it to my daughter, now a grandmother, she had never heard it, so I would guess that few children now do not know it either. We sang the Stephen Foster songs with their haunting melodies, and “My bonnie lies over the ocean”, even Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea, silver buckles on his knee ….”. We loved all of them and sang with gusto though many of us were not glee club material. By the way, are there glee clubs any more? That’s where we learned harmony. Remember those parts of the melody, we played on the piano and sang until we knew the part, then when we came together we knew, more or less as talent went, how to sing our part.
Neighborhood schools meant that once a year we came together to sing the songs we had learned at our own places to celebrated together, but we were in competition, too. 4.H provided a greater opportunity for my own children and their contemporaries in talent shows held all over the county, and there was talent -- parents, too, who coached.
Camaraderie is great and so is competition. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”