Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

“I know a man,

He came from my hometown.

He wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown…”

Not the words to any lullaby you were raised with, are they? Me either. But for at least five years now this song has unfailingly gotten my daughter to fall asleep when nothing else would work.

My wife complains about how unfair it is that I can basically fall asleep whenever I want to. We will be talking in bed and at some point I will get tired enough and I will say, “I am going to sleep now.” And I do. Usually within two minutes of deciding to do so. She, on the other hand, needs to read a book or work on logic problems before she is able to set her day behind her and fall asleep.

Sadly, my daughter takes after her mother when it comes to falling asleep. The nightly process much more closely resembles some form of hand-to-hand combat between “awake” and “asleep” than an easy letting go for my poor girl. She has not yet read Dylan Thomas’s poetry, but it would not surprise me if his words strike a chord with her when she discovers him:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…”

I know Thomas’s words were about more than sleep. And as I sing Paul Simon’s words to “Slip Slidin’ Away” lately, they more often than not bring me to silent tears. I chose the song originally because I knew the words and it fit my limited range. I also liked the layer of meaning that using the song as a lullaby imparted to the lyrics. I truly wanted Isabel to slip slide off to sleep.

But now that she is almost ten and starting to develop more teenager-y tastes, I know that she is not always going to want me to lie down next to her and sing her a song to help her get to sleep. It is only a matter of time before she plugs in her earbuds and lets the Apple Corporation lull her to sleep. My time as her lullaby-singer is slip slidin’ away, too. Hell, she doesn’t know it yet, but SHE is slip slidin’ away from me—just like she is supposed to, I guess.

And on especially maudlin nights, as I finish up the last fading away lines of the song, I allow myself to look at the facts of the situation: Not only is Isabel sliding out of her childhood and away from me, but I am doing a little bit of slip slidin’ myself.

“Believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip slidin’ away…”

(Listen to the song.)