My dad had special songs for each of us girls growing up. My eldest sister, Rachel, had “Love Me Tender,” which fits her quiet, thoughtful personality. The more rambunctious Rebecca had “Side by Side” (“ain’t got a barrel of money, maybe we’re ragged and funny, but we’re traveling along, singing our song, side by side…”). And I had “You Are My Sunshine.”
These are very special songs to each of us, as I’m sure we each have special memories associated with them. Dad loved to sing our songs to us and dance with his little girls balancing on the tops of his feet while he swayed around the living room. I have very few regrets in life, but one big one is that I procrastinated finding a good version of “You Are My Sunshine” to play at my wedding, so my poor dad and I had to dance to a horrible version from the soundtrack of “Brother, Where Art Thou?” I should have put more time into it and found the Ricky Nelson version that my dad and I both love so much.
Fast forward to this week, as I’m putting Emma to bed and dreading the idea of reading “Ernie Goes to the Potty” for the 80th time. The book was supposed to help Emma understand the concept of potty-training, but I’m still changing poopy diapers so it obviously didn’t work. I just couldn’t stand the idea of reading that book or any other from her collection. So I asked her if she’d like to sing a few songs before bed instead.
Well, hey! She loved that idea! Actually, she loved it so much that I ran out of songs to sing. One can only sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” so many times, and I forgot the words to “Lullabye.” So I borrowed my dad’s tunes and sang “Love Me Tender.” Ooh, she loved that one! She curled up in my arms and snuggled while I sang. Then I tried Rebecca’s special song, “Side by Side.” That one wasn’t as big a hit, probably because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Then we tried MY song. Maybe I put a little more “oomf” into it since it’s MY song. Maybe I sang with a little more feeling, maybe she just knew I wanted to get out of there and back to my glass of wine, but she started begging for “Sunshine” over and over again. The following night we made it through half a book before she asked to sing “Sunshine.” She flung herself onto my lap and rocked back and forth while I sang it to her. Each time I got to “… you make me happy when skies are gray…” she squealed HAP-PY! and rocked and bounced in my lap until I finished the song, then demanded that I sing it again.
How did she know? How did she know what a special song that is? Why did she connect with THAT song, of all songs? I’m going to go find the Ricky Nelson version of it so in 20 years she can dance to it with her Grandpa at her wedding, and I have a feeling she’ll know that she really is his sunshine, and my sunshine too.