Bedtime Stories Part 1

It’s bedtime.

“Rahul, can you choose a few books for us to read tonight?”

He brings 3 of his favorites.

“Tuttle tuttle tree,” he repeats as we go through Dr. Seuss’s ABC imaginings.

A comb, a brush, and a bowl full of…
“Mush!” he beams, as we say goodnight to the room, the moon, the kittens and the mittens.

“Capillo,” he says, every time we see the hungry caterpillar munching through fruits and cakes.

He’s tossing and turning.

I sing the usual lullabies; they don’t relax him.

It’s late.

“Can I tell you a story?” My last resort. It’s been a few weeks since I told either of the children a bedtime story.

Immediately, Rahul is still. Even in the dark room, I see his wide open eyes stare at me. Waiting.

I’ve never been a story teller, or a singer for that matter. It was only after we returned to Chengdu from Hong Kong, when the babies were 5 months old, that I looked up some nursery rhymes. Maher and I didn’t have any appreciation whatsoever for children’s music.

And stories? I spent my childhood wondering how come I didn’t get an imagination gene.

That’s the thing with our little yogis though; they listen to my out-of-tune singing, and the same story, over and over. Seemingly enjoying it all.

So I repeat the story – the story of their lives.
Rahul listens attentively.

“When you and Leila were tiny, tiny, tiny; you were in my belly. Right here. Rahul on this side, and Leila over there on that side. As you grew bigger, so did my belly. It grew and grew and grew.
Then we all went to Hong Kong, and you were born there. You and Leila had to spend some time in the hospital. You became strong and big very quickly; you came home after only 3 weeks. While you were there, mama and papa used to spend all day with you, touch you, talk to you, and sing to you. This was my song:”

“You’re just too good to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off of you.
You’d be like heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much,
Can’t take my eyes off of you.”
(The Lauryn Hill version of course!)

“And papa used to sing this:
“Elle est a toi, cette chanson,
toi l’auvergnat, qui sans facon,
m’a donne 4 bouts de bois,
quand dans ma vie il faisait froid.…”
( “Chanson pour Auvergnat,” is by French singer Georges Brassens. This version has English subtitles)

Rahul’s still awake. I continue.

“And the other song that papa sang was this one:”
“Je n’avais jamais hote mon chapeau, devant personne.
Maintenant je rampe et je fais le beau, quand elle me sonne….”
(Also Georges Brassens. “Je me suis fait tout petit,” with English subtitles).

Rahul’s eye lids are getting heavy. I keep going with the story.

“While I went to see Leila in the hospital during the day, you stayed at home with your 2 grandma’s. They took very good care of you. Papa went back to Chengdu, but came to visit us every weekend. And then Leila came home; and you and R met each other! When you were 5 months old, we left Hong Kong. We joined papa, and we were all together.”
He was asleep by then.
———————
Leila’s turn.

I lie down next to her. It’s late. She can’t focus; can’t stay still.

I skip the books and the lullabies. Go straight to the story.

I got to the bit where I tell her that mama and papa sang songs for her while she was in the hospital.

She stops me. “Mama. Sing Summertime.”

She falls asleep a couple of minutes into the song.

What she missed of the story were the songs that Maher recorded for them, the night before he left HK. (“Chanson pour Auvergnat,” “Je me suis fait tout petit,” and “No Leila, no cry.”) I played the recordings for L and R every day that we were in HK; until we moved back to Chengdu.

“No Leila, no Cry,” a la Bob Marley.

No Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry

Cause cause, cause
Cause I remember, when we used to sit
In the government yard in Hong Kong

Oba ob-serving the hypocrites
As they would mingle with the good people we meet
Oh, good friends we’ve had, good friends we’ve lost
Along the way, oh

In this bright future, you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears I say

No Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry
Oh little Leila, don’t shed no tears
No Leila, no cry

Cause cause, cause
Cause I remember, when we used to sit
In the government yard in Hong Kong

And then Natasha would make the fire light
Log –wood burnin’ through the night
And we would cook oat meal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you, ooh

And Leila, she’s my only carriage
So I’ve got to push on through,
But while I’m gone

Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright

So, no Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry
Oh little Leila, don’t shed no tears
No Leila, no cry

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8 thoughts on “Bedtime Stories Part 1

  1. Waou… Very touching..
    Maybe I’m breaking the ambiance here, but I’ve got to inform those who never heard you sing that the fact that Rahul and Leila manage to sleep while YOU are singing is really amazing !
    I guess it doesn’t matter how talented you are at storytelling or singing, to them you are the best in the world!

  2. I still sing “No Woman No Cry” to my children, even now that they are three and five and only rarey need me to settle them to sleep. I love the gentle message. I love the quiet reassurance. My husband’s family is Jamaican, and so my children heart Bob Marley’s music before they were born. Thank you so much for this lovely post. It has brought back so many good memories, for me!

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