Forever Lullaby

words by Janis Kelson
music: verse by Janis Kelson; chorus: "Cockles and Mussels"
based on a children's book whose name Jan doesn't remember

 

A brand-new young mother sits in an old rocker,
Her small newborn baby held close to her breast.
She smoothes his soft hair, and she sings him a love song,
And marvels anew at the way she's been blessed.
She never could recall just where she'd learned it,
The words and the music engraved in her heart.
Soft, sweet and low, she sings her son a promise,
A promise she'll always keep, right from the start.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

Her son grew so quickly, 'midst love, tears and laughter,
First he was one, and then he became two.
Running and mischief and laughter and tantrums
And driving her crazy, but her love still was true.
Every night she'd take him up to his bedroom,
Read him a story, then put him to bed.
After he slept, she would cradle him closely
And whisper her love song as she kissed his small head.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

Then he's eleven, and she's not quite certain
Just where the baby went. When did he go?
It's skateboards and homework and mud through the kitchen,
And scraping an elbow or breaking a toe.
But every night as her son lies there sleeping,
She creeps to his room and she cradles her boy.
She strokes back his hair and she kisses his forehead,
And sings him her song with a smile of joy.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

Then he turns sixteen, and things are so different.
Rock concerts, car keys, a girlfriend or three.
She doesn't approve of his friends or his wardrobe.
She worries about him, but won't let him see.
But every night when she's sure that he's sleeping,
She makes her way past all the mess in his room.
She sits on the bed and she strokes his long hair back,
And whispers the promise of that soft little tune.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

And then he's in college and so far from home now
He comes home for Summer and Christmas sometimes.
He brings her his laundry and asks for more money,
'Cause college can be so expensive at times.
But every night now that he's home from school,
She goes to his room and she sits at his side.
And when she's sure that he's deeply asleep,
She sings him her promise with love she can't hide.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

The years fly so quickly, and he's a man grown now.
A wife and a house and his own family.
Her health is now failing, and one night she phones him:
"My son, I would like you to come visit me."
A dutiful son, he gets into his car
And drives to her house; he is there before long.
He sits on her bed, and he holds her frail hand;
She smiles at him gently and sings him her song.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always"
    [silence]

She stops in mid-lullaby, frowns in confusion.
The words are now gone, and so she starts to cry.
The song she has sung all his life is forgotten;
She just can't remember it, hard as she tries.
The song she's forgotten is one he remembers;
He seems to have known it for all of his days.
He dries all her tears, then he kisses her gently.
He tells her he loves her, as softly he says.
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my mother you'll be."

After she's sleeping, he leaves and drives homeward.
He locks up, then walks up the stairs with a sigh.
He goes to the nursery door on his tiptoes,
To look at his child with a tear in his eye.
He stands o'er her cradle and watches her sleeping,
Her skin like soft velvet, her hair like soft wings.
She's just a week old now, and God, how he loves her!
He picks her up gently, and softly he sings:
    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

    "I love you forever. I like you for always.
    As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."