Do you ever wonder how much of your parents positive lessons were purposely taught and how much was just good luck? When I was a little girl, my dad would always play me to sleep every night. My bedtime stories were always accompanied with a guitar. My dad would play his melodies using a Gibson guitar with hummingbirds inlaid on the pick guard. My brother, on the other hand, was played to sleep using a far more masculine guitar, a Martin D-16.
There were three songs always in my father’s good night routine for me: 1) My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, 2) Catfish John and 3) Wouldn’t Change You if I Could. Sure, other songs were often added to the mix, but I could count on these three being there. Each held a different meaning and purpose.
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean was in the mix to teach me who I am. Not just that my name was Bonnie, but that no matter where I was, someone loved me, missed me and thought of me constantly. A child needs to know these things. And a daughter needs to know them infinitely more from her father.
I bet many of you aren’t familiar with the lyrics of Catfish John. They go something like this: “Momma said don’t go near that river. Don’t you be hanging ’round ol’ Catfish John. But come the morning, I’d always be there. Walking in the footsteps of the sweet delta dawn. Born a slave, in town of Vicksburg. Traded for a Chestnut mare. Looking back, I still remember, and I’m glad to call him my friend.” There were many lessons in this song. The biggest was to push aside racism, judgement and fear of differences, and be friends with another person for their value as a loved one. Some of the best people came from trying circumstances, and others with posher lifestyles often weren’t worth their weight in salt. It also reminds me of who I am and where I come from. To this day, a sunrise in Appalachia does my soul good and wells up strength inside me.
He also played, “Wouldn’t Change You if I Could.” Now, I’m not sure I can even type these lyrics without crying, but I’ll try. “I wouldn’t change you if I could. I love you as you are. You’re all that I would wish for, if I wished upon a star. An angel sent from heaven. You’re everything that’s good. You’re perfect just the way you are. I wouldn’t change you if I could.” One time I was driving to the beach with my boyfriend, and this song came on the radio. Without warning, I burst into tears. I’m sure my boyfriend had no idea what was happening. When I hear this song, it’s like having my dad sit down next to me, putting his arm around me, and allowing my head to nestle into his shoulder. I am no angel, nor perfect, but every little girl should have a daddy who thinks they are.
Now I’m a social worker. I know not everyone’s childhood is idyllic. Even if your’s was not, I hope you can provide your child something that they can look back on, and believe in. Perhaps you can pass it on in the form of wisdom, or perhaps you can just pass it along through luck. But your family is the greatest gift you will ever receive. Take a moment, pass it along.