| LifeTakes |

The Lullaby

“Mommy,” she whispered, “do you remember you sang me this song after my operation?”

The caller slammed down the phone, the angry sound reverberating through my ear. I sank onto the couch, depleted, and tears welled up — a result of exhaustion from hard work, a lack of sleep, and feeling unappreciated.

“Mommy,” my six-year-old called from her bedroom, “come sing me the song you sang to me when I was a baby.”

I glanced at the clock and stayed seated. It was 9 p.m., way past her bedtime, and I was in no mood to sing songs.

“Mommmmy,” she called again.

I forced myself off the couch. How do mommies give and give, while barely getting in return?

I sat down on my daughter’s bed and started singing softly while gently rubbing her back in a circular motion.

“Ai li lu li Esti, my sweetest sweetest Esti; ai li lu li Esti, I love so much my Esti …”

I put my cheek against hers and a wisp of a sigh floated out of my little one’s mouth.

“Mommy,” she whispered, “do you remember you sang me this song after my operation?”

I nodded and smiled. I hadn’t been sure my daughter had heard me singing to her back then, from the depths of her post-surgery slumber. It was gratifying to hear that my mommy actions don’t go unnoticed.

I continued singing softly, reflecting on the simple but meaningful words. This lullaby had been lovingly sung through generations in my family; my mother sang it to me as a child, and her mother to her.

The composer of this family lullaby was unknown. Which of my ancestors had lovingly cooed these lyrics, perhaps while rocking a teething baby as dawn flitted through the window, or while soothing a frightened toddler in the dark of night?

I watched my daughter’s eyelids close, a smile on her lips. I continued singing for several moments and then kissed her before softly leaving the room.

Feeling peaceful, I reentered the living room. The harrowing telephone call was a distant memory. Humming softly, I began to clean up, picking up a shoe from under a chair, collecting the crayons scattered on the table, hanging up a jacket, and straightened some seforim on the shelves. I picked up my daughter’s schoolbag and was about to casually hang it on its peg when I stopped, found a pen, and wrote a mitzvah note to her teacher and put it in the bag.


The next morning I woke with a stiff neck, and by late afternoon, the pain was debilitating. I shuffled into the room where my older children were doing homework while my younger ones were engrossed in building a house from Clics.

Kinderlach,” I called, holding my neck, “Mommy is going to rest now. Please, no fighting.” An involuntary groan escaped my lips as something pulled in my shoulder, sending pain through my neck and head.

I was finally sinking into almost-pain-free drowsiness, when I heard footsteps walking down the hallway to my room.

My eyes flew open and I tensed. Whatever it is, I don’t want to know about it! I’m resting! I turned my face to the wall and closed my eyes.

The door creaked open slowly and I heard the light tread of small feet. I lay still and pretended I was sleeping.

And then the blanket moved near my head. Little fingers gently patted my neck and a sweet voice started singing softly, “Ai li lu li Mommy, sweety sweety Mommy; ai li lu li Mommy, I love so much my Mommy …”

Tears filled my eyes. I sat up and grabbed my little daughter into my arms.

Was it me who had said mommies only give and don’t get?


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 251)

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