Memory Songs #8 “Little Child” by Gene

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When my wife told me that she thought she might be pregnant I was fairly sure that she wasn’t.  I had been married before, for ten years, and had enjoyed moments of physical intimacy at least, oh, three or four times during that time and none of those moments had led to the creation of another living being.  I assumed that being a parent was not something that was going to happen for me.  I could say more on that subject…maybe another day.  So certain was I that before marrying again I had informed my then fiance that I probably couldn’t have children and that I had no interest in adoption or fertility treatment.  The agreement we reached was that we would try for the first year and if it didn’t happen we would draw a line under it.  I don’t know how realistic it would actually have been to draw such a line but that was what we decided.

However, six months after saying “I do” in the rather grand environs of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh we discovered that not only could I father a child but that fathering a child was exactly what I was doing.  I was terrified and excited in, almost, equal part.  In just nine months I was going to be a dad.  It seemed terribly unlikely given the fact that I didn’t feel much more than a child myself still, despite being on the cusp of my fortieth birthday.  It was true though and I had to start preparing myself.

In the darkest moments of my life, when the black dog growls, when things seem unbearable, when anxiety grips like a vice, when hope departs and hopelessness resides there is one band I turn to without thought…Gene.  Nobody, not even the person you might think I would turn to for musical soothing, makes me feel more comforted, more assured that I am not alone in these thoughts, more confident that I can rise again from despair to somewhere than Martin Rossiter and his merry band.  It isn’t just the lyrics, it isn’t just the music, there is something in his voice that calms and heals.  He isn’t Frank Sinatra or Elvis Pressley but there is a fragility, an honesty, a tenderness in his voice that makes me feel, quite honestly, better.

Very early in the pregnancy we had a scare.

That isn’t an adequate description.

It’s what people say though.

What actually happened was that we thought we were having a miscarriage.

So certain were we that something was not right that we drove, in the very early hours of the morning, to the local hospital so that we could have our fears allayed…or confirmed.

I had lost my faith and belief in the idea of a God some years earlier.

After decades of Church attendance, prayer, evangelising, scripture study and testifying I had slowly, but very surely, lost my faith.

Gone.

I had replaced those old beliefs with some new ones; atheism, anti-theism, Hitchens worship, Dawkins adoration…to the extent that I was more evangelical about my lack of faith than I had ever been about my faith.

As the car sped through the dark winter’s night neither one of us spoke.

What could be said?

“It’s going to be alright.”?

That would have been a lie.

I didn’t know that things were going to be alright.

I had an awful feeling that things were not going to be alright.

I wondered how we would cope if the dream of a baby was gone.

Do you cope?

Can you cope?

Can you recover?

Unconsciously I started to pray inside my mind.

Begging a God I had decided no longer existed to keep this baby alive, to protect my wife from the horror and pain of such a loss.  It may well have been the most honest, heartfelt and sincere prayer of my life…ironic.  It was, I suppose, a foxhole conversion.  It is easy to live without God when things are going well…it is much more difficult to do it when the chips are down.

When the chips are down.

This was so much worse than the chips being down.

At the hospital we waited.

We waited for a long time.

Eventually we were seen by someone in the maternity unit.

Everything was fine.

A false alarm.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt a relief quite like it.

When we got back to the car we sat in silence for a long time.

Sitting in quiet contemplation.

I can remember suddenly becoming aware of quite how tightly we were holding onto one another’s hand and loosening my grip and laughing.

Then I put on some music.

Hold on one more day for me
Little child, my little child
I will be your breath and fire
My little child
When the night is gone
Oh little child
And when the sunbeams smile
Oh, I’ll be there
I’ve seen what you could become
My little child, my little child
You deserve to love someone
My little child
And when the night is gone
Little child
And when the sunbeams smile
Oh, I’ll be there
I don’t remember consciously choosing “Little Child”.
I knew this was the only song that could capture the way I felt.
As we listened I felt the usual, unusual, sense of comfort that comes to me when I listen to Gene.
I committed to being the breath and fire of my little child.
To being there when the sunbeams smiled.
To helping her become all that she could become.
To being there when the night was gone and a new day dawned.
To loving her unconditionally.
To being there.
We listened again…and again…and again…we listened all the way home.
Imagine being able to bring light and hope after the darkest of nights to someone you barely know.
You don’t have to be a musician or a pop star or a writer…you can do it for someone today.
Thank you Martin.

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