The other night, Chloe, Josh and I sat out on our front porch and sang to the birds. We belted out as many tunes as we could think of and when we couldn’t think of any more songs to sing, we sang the songs a second time. It was a nice cool evening with a breeze blowing in off the water and from where we were sitting; we watched the sun set over Boston while we were having a little fun.
As it got later into the night, Stephanie came out onto the front porch and told Chloe it was time for bed. After a few rounds of hugs and kisses for Josh and I, Chloe headed off to her room with Stephanie. A little while later, Stephanie came back out onto the porch and told Josh it was time to get ready for bed as well. As he gave me a hug good night and headed into the house with Stephanie, I sat back with a huge grin on my face as I stared out over the marsh across the street from our home.
It all started in August of 2001, when our son Josh was born prematurely. He spent the first eight days of his life in the Special Care Nursery because his lungs had not yet fully developed. It was tough for us to watch him lying in an incubator with tubes down his throat so he could breath, feeding tubes in his arms, and monitors that were carefully checking all of his vital statistics. Luckily for us, Josh responded to the treatment rather quickly and was home in eight days.
Stephanie and I were happy, excited, tired, jubilant, in love, scared, and just about every other possible emotion in between. It was a tough time for us when Josh first came home from the Hospital. Stephanie and I were on pins and needles as we worried about a possible relapse that would put him back into the Special Care Nursery. But as each day passed, our fears gradually subsided.
As the months progressed, Josh was getting bigger and stronger each and every day, but he wasn’t sleeping through the night yet. He would wake up every two to three hours like clockwork and it would take a long time for us to get him back to sleep. Stephanie and I worked out a schedule so we wouldn’t become sleep deprived but it was inevitable, we were exhausted.
Then one night in the spring, while I sat holding Josh on the front steps, I just started singing to him. I mainly sang fifties and sixties songs to him as he settled down in my arms and fell happily off to sleep. I am not sure why I sang Golden Oldies to him but it seemed appropriate at the time and wouldn’t you know it, the singing worked. After nine and a half months, Josh started to sleep through the night.
Josh and I sat out on our front steps just about every night after that and I sang to him. I was mesmerized at how Josh would just sleep comfortably in my arms as I sang to him and the birds. It was a relaxing way to end the day as the two of us would spend time together soaking in the cool spring and summer breezes. And as usual, I would lose track of time while we were out on the front steps; but Stephanie would always let me know when it was time to move him into his crib by making a little noise near the door after having quietly watched us for a while.
As Josh grew up, our own ritual of singing to the birds progressed and we would sit out on the front steps for hours. He would sing the choruses of the songs at first but over time, he would pick up more and more of the songs and sing them with me. It became a great time to bond with Josh until the mosquitoes chased us inside for the night. And to this day, I have cherished every song we have ever sung together.
I love the fact that he humored me by listening to each and every song but in another sense, I think Josh grew to accept our singing to the birds as his normal bedtime routine. Like I said, it was a great way to end the day but more importantly, our little ritual gave him a safe place to be able to drift off to sleep peacefully without a care in the world.
So as I sat out on the porch waiting for Stephanie to come back downstairs from putting the kids to bed, I reveled in the memory of our little tradition. I don’t know why our ritual tapered off after Chloe was born but for the past couple of years, the kids and I have done less singing to the birds in the evening. So it was special to me when Chloe, Josh and I spent a couple of hours sitting on the front stoop just belting out tune after tune. Chloe has grown into quite the little performer and she just loves to sing, dance and perform for everyone.
As Stephanie walked out and sat down in the chair next to me, I held her hand and said, “We need to do this more often; all of us.”
“I agree,” she replied.
And we will! We may not be the best singers in the world but we have a fun time together and I even think the birds might enjoy it as well; especially when we sing “Rockin’ Robin” to them.
And if, by chance, you have come by our house at night over the past few years and you have heard Josh and me singing to the birds, you may have also realized that there was a lot more than a song taking place on our front steps. Because I believe the songs that we have sung together are just an affirmation of the simple fact that we all need a place to feel safe from the fears of the world around us.