It’s amazing that ten years ago while in college, I could stay up until two a.m. without blinking a sleepy eye. Today, while I’m usually awake at 2 a.m. it is preceded by a few hours of sleep. When I creep into Cameron’s room to change his diaper and nurse him, I try and keep the mood quiet, dreamlike so he will drift back into a sleepy slumber.
Most nights I am successful.
Every so often, he will require a little more effort on my part. If I put him back in his crib before he is ready, he lets me know, usually about the time I make my way back to my room and crawl under the covers. It doesn’t matter if I wait in his nursery to ensure he is soundly sleeping for 30 seconds or ten minutes. He knows when I get back to my room and snuggle under the blankets and just as I sigh with relief for my impending three hour nap, he murmurs a bit and then lets out his angry cry, “momma, I was not done cuddling you yet, come back.”
So I dart back to the nursery, so Matt can keep sleeping (and yes, I’m tired but I realize the need for momma snuggles is fleeting). I pick up my sad little boy and put him up on my shoulder to comfort him. I inhale his lavender shampoo and kiss his hairy head. Some nights we rock, some nights we dance. But all nights are accompanied by my loving, quiet singing, albeit out of tune. I don’t think he minds though.
What songs come to mind in the wee hours? Matt claims the only songs he can recall in the middle of the night when he brain is clouded with exhaustion are inappropriate rap songs. One night I overheard him on the monitor singing Sublime, “ What I Got” editing the lyrics for our young audience. (To be fair – he can also be overheard making up his own love songs to our son when he draws a blank).
I, however, go back to the songs that always brought me comfort. Church songs, hymns, campfire tunes, Vacation Bible School ditties. I like to know all the words to the songs I choose and since those songs are shorter and have been in my life for more than two decades, I know them all by heart.
I open with the song, “Sing, sing it out loud.” It’s the song that most Choir Camp campfires began with and seems like the perfect opener to my early morning set. I usually follow with any song in a foreign language because it takes more effort and ensures that I will not drift back to sleep in the middle of the chorus. “Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’” – the Zulu song that translates – We are marching in the light of God and “Alabaré, Alabaré, Alabaré A mi Señor” – Spanish for “We will praise the Lord” and my favorite” Ki mu nki maa nyi, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go, Om ut ima gwo gu ku lung ‘aa mye, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go”– the Lugandan song, “Everybody has a Seed to Sow.”
It’s been almost eleven years since I’ve been a choir camper but the songs are etched in my memories as if I were just singing them yesterday in my hot pink Choir Camp tee shirt, jeans, flip flops and French braids. It’s amazing to be able to sing these songs to my son and at the same time recalling the incredible friendships and memories from the five years I was a camper and three as a counselor.
And while his nursery smells of the pink Johnson and Johnson baby lotion and A&D ointment, not well water, bug spray and campfires. And the paint that covers the walls is a fresh gray and turquoise and not musty wood covered in cobwebs. And the floor is soft, white, plush carpet not gritty, sandy, cement that inevitably ends up at the end of your sleeping bag. Somehow – despite all that- sometimes at 2 a.m. I am transported back to a cabin at Camp Lael.
I wonder if Cameron will love singing as much as I do. I wonder what his summer memories will be made of. I wonder if he thinks his momma sings off key and sometimes messes up the words.
For now, I am content knowing that his early morning feedings are accompanied by the songs that comfort me and by the songs that tell Bible stories that will help him to grow into a man of God.
Sing, sing it out loud
Sing it so everyone can hear,
Let it begin it’s ringing in every listening ear right now
Lifting our praise unto the one who brought us here
Lifting our hearts to Jesus whose name we gladly sing!