Thursday, March 2, 2017

Another Thing

I've been trying to sing the kid more folk songs, and he's asked for Oh My Darling. When I sing it he asks, Why is she gone for ever?

It's funny because I think that my impulse is to protect my kid from unhappy truths like the fact of death, which he can't really understand right now anyway. And I think it's my responsibility to protect him from a lot of things, as far as I can, but I don't think it's my responsibility to avoid talking about death.

First of all, Christianity makes it impossible--the cross, our central picture, is all about death (and, after that, resurrection). The kid asks sometimes why Jesus on the cross looks sad. And so I try to tell him.

Ash Wednesday is all about our mortality--for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I also think that folk songs teach us that the good, the bad, and the ugly should all be processed out loud and passed down. And I suspect that if we talk to our kids about it before they can really understand it, it won't be so taboo. And then we retell the stories again and again as they get older, understanding a little more each time.

But yes, he gets that Oh My Darling is sad and that being gone forever is uncomfortable.


Miss Self-Important said...

Is it sad? Clementine dies, but it seems intended to be funny, though not in a way that a little kid could grasp. The narrator kisses her sister and forgets all about her! Plus, she has huge feet and wears boxes for shoes.

Emily Hale said...

Ha--maybe I'm missing the point and it's just funny. I always found it sad and sort of baffling, even as a kid.

Emily Hale said...

It doesn't make you feel like you want to cry when you listen to it??

Hopkins said...

There's a novel about folk singing in the south called 'The Big Ballad Jamboree' that has, to my mind, the very best description of a folk song. I can't find the exact quotation, but it goes something like: 'folk songs, no matter how happy they are, always make you a little sad. And no matter how sad they are, they make you a little happy.' Somewhere in the simplicity of the poetry of folks there's a deep truth: nothing is wholly sad or wholly happy in this life. I love that you introduce these hard truths to him through folks songs: a gentle look at reality in all its complexity.

Emily Hale said...

That's a wonderful explanation!

Tangentially related, I've been workin' on the railroad, which I sing to him every night, always seems to captured my tired, end of the day, feeling.

Hopkins said...

Yes! That rhythm is elemental!