Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird.
We sit on the couch, or rather, I sit while he bounces. Suddenly, he is not there. I see only his legs in the air; his body is falling down the other side. There is a crash and the tears are instantaneous.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring.
My mind races as mothers do, lapping dozens of possibilities before I make it around the couch. Did he break his neck? Will there be blood? Broken arm? Concussion? Can he move?
And if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s going to buy you a looking glass.
I cuddle him in my lap. He is larger than he was when I first sang him this song, and his legs hang off of mine. His face is red and he looks into my eyes as he screams. There are no injuries, but I hold him close.
And if that look glass gets broke, Mama’s going to buy you a billy goat.
This was the song that my mother sang to me when I couldn’t fall asleep on nights that seemed to be extra black. Now I wonder who would hand a baby a diamond ring, why the promise of multiple carts would soothe a crying child. But it never failed to do so.
And if that billy goat won’t pull, Mama’s going to buy you a cart and bull.
When he was little, he was not easily soothed by the things that are meant to soothe babies. But eventually, after hours of failed attempts, this song begun to work on my infant son as well. His cries would slow, then cease, and he would stare at me, listening.
And if that cart and bull fall over, Mama’s going to buy you a dog named Rover.
His back hurts, he gasps between the sobs. I snuggle him closer, reminding him, “this is why we don’t jump on the couch.” I immediately regret saying this. In this moment, he realizes that. Tomorrow, he will have forgotten both my admonishment and the time he fell headfirst over the back of the couch, and return to his wild ways. Right now, however, he only needs someone to hold him as he cries.
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark, Mama’s going to buy you a horse and cart.
He pops up. “Mama,” he says with utter seriousness.”It was like I was flying,” he says, beginning to grin. “It hurt when I landed, but it was fun flying down.”
And if that horse and cart fall down, you’ll still be the sweetest baby in town.