At first his cries were kind of sweet and plaintive, and everybody in the car smiled knowingly, confident that he would soon calm down and go back to sleep.
“He’s just been fed and burped, his diaper is clean and dry, he should be fine,” said his mother (and my daughter), Andrea. Alexander is Andrea’s first child, and this was their first long trip together, so they were both very much in a mode of trying to figure each other out. But already she had a sense of her son, and she was confident that all would be well.
But it wasn’t. Thirty minutes later Alexander was still crying, and the rest of us were wondering what was going on.
“Do you want me to pull over?” I asked, aware that Andrea would not take him out of his car seat to cuddle and comfort him as long as the car was moving.
“No,” she said. “Let me try something first.”
She leaned up as close to Alexander’s face as she could get, and began to sing to him:
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Now, I need to tell you that I have heard Andrea sing hundreds of times. We sing a lot in our family – it’s just something that we do (I’d tell you about our version of “Happy Birthday to You” were it not . . . well . . . indescribable).
But Andrea has taken her singing to another level. She has studied voice. She has worked hard on her singing in great choirs and as a high school, college and professional actress. She has sung countless solos in front of huge audiences. In other words, Andrea sings.
But I’ve never heard her sing quite like how she sang to her baby that night. It was a new and different voice for Andrea. It was . . . I don’t know . . . tender. Soft. Sweet. Gentle. Which is not to say I’ve never heard Andrea sing tenderly, softly, sweetly and gently before, because I have.
But never quite like this, and never to an audience of one. There was a quality about her singing that had nothing at all to do with her talent and experience . . . something that touched me as I drove, even though it clearly wasn’t intended for me. I’ll just call it what it felt like.
Alexander began to calm almost immediately. By the time Andrea had sung through the song three times, he was sleeping. Comfortably. Peacefully. Miraculously.
Alexander wasn’t comforted by the beauty of his mother’s voice, or by her musical skill and training. He was comforted because it WAS his mother’s voice. He knew it. He loved it. And he knew the owner of that voice loved him. That’s what I heard coming from the back of the car that night. It’s the miracle of motherhood.
The miracle of love.