Some songs have been with me for (it feels like) my whole life, and were a very special part of my very early years. When it was bedtime (if I recall this correctly), after the teeth were brushed and the nightie was on and I’d decided which of my bajillion soft toys would have the honour of sleeping on my pillow that night (they took turns, so none of them felt left-out or less loved), I would snuggle down and, once Mum had said her goodnights, I’d call for Dad.
And sometimes, when doing the goodnights, Dad would sing to me.
He couldn’t be persuaded often (I think), but when he could be, there were bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover; there were April showers which came what may; there was always K-K-K-Katie, waiting for her man when the moon shone over the cow-shed. There was even Daisy and her beau, getting hitched and riding off in style on a bicycle made for two.
And there was this, which was my favourite, and which I now sing to Niece and Neff at bedtime.
Admittedly Dad only ever sang it to just after the Umbrella man packed up his troubles and went on his way, but he would sing it gently, tenderly, and I felt safe and warm and loved. I was his little girl, and he cared enough to sing me to sleep. Listening to it now gives me that incredibly bittersweet stab-through-the-heart of nostalgia.
Because life stopped being tender and gentle, and for many years there was no music for me.
Life became about keeping my head down and avoidance – staying firmly and as protectedly as possible within my shell. It became about rejection and underminedness and hurt and unworth. Eventually it became about the way the years and years of this pain mounted up to unbalance the chemicals in my brain, and then it became about isolation, desperation and the overspill of my imagination into the Real World, so that the two combined to haunt me.
It became about escape.
After that, the music began flooding in; angsty and disappointingly stereotypical of a teenager suffering the feelings of unbelonging. But a budding friendship eventually worked its magic (alongside a course of much-needed counselling and a little pharmaceutical something to kick the brain chemistry back into touch). Eventually, something which started out in a decidedly shaky fashion became rock-solid(ish), and the feeling that I was trapped in some kind of glass jar – able to see all around me enjoying such wonderful connectedness, yet never being part of it myself – was smashed into pieces.
I began to tentatively develop my own connections and understandings of that magical, formerly unattainable concept – belonging.
We were like chalk and cheese. Like two halves of the same coin. Like Laurel and Hardy. Like Broken and Beaten. But we fit, and this wonderful sunbeam who came shining into my world at just the right moment, rapidly became a permanent fixture in my life – she marched on in, set up camp, helped herself to tea and biscuits and became my Person. She remains my Person to this day. And while we never had a song, if we had’ve, this would be it.
This song is a special one to me; I love the melodies, harmonies, sentiment, and everything about it, and it’s one of those wonderful songs which expresses far better than I could ever hope to, a feeling I sometimes want to share with someone else I’ve discovered to be a precious part of my life. So when I find the moment has arisen, I send this song instead.
So after entering the wonderful new world of Friends and Belonging and Connectedness, I began to discover things were Getting Better. Changes had happened at home; life had moved on; I had moved on. And for the first time in my life, in spite of all the confusions and mental knots I’d gotten tangled up into, I felt there was Something More.
There was hope for me yet.
So I muddled along, and gradually some of the tangles came unsnaggled. I met a man, who I knew from the first day would be a good husband (I was absolutely right) and a good father (watch this space and keep praying) and who just had an inexplicable touch of destiny about him.
‘Just seeing’ turned into dating turned into courting (I know, but we’re old fashioned like that) turned into engagement, turned into a beautiful white wedding with our nearest and dearest, a cake covered with sweets, and vows which we meant and still mean, Forever.
And this song, to seal the deal, for our first dance.
And yes, of course you can see the cake again…