Nursery Rhymes (click to comment)


Do you remember some of the lullabies we used to hear? When I was a child my mother rocked me gently on her lap, and hummed ever so softly the saddest of songs. As soon as I provided her with Grand-children, she began inflicting the same punishment on them. “Gramma,” the children would beg her, “sing that one you sang Daddy, back when you were on the ark.”

And so she passes on the following family heirloom:

I lost my kitty, my pretty white kitty,
I hunted the house all ’round.
I looked in the cradle and under the table,
But nowhere could kitty be found.
So I called my dog Rover to hunt the fields over,
To help find kitty for me.
No dog could be kinder but he could not find her,
Oh, where could my poor kitty be?
So I took my hook and I went to the brook
To see if my kitty was there.
My kitty was found, but alas she was drowned.
And so I gave up in despair.

It’s a wonder I slept at all! When our children were toddlers I tried to rewrite a few depressing nursery rhymes to make them suitable for sensitive children. I sang rhymes where Jack didn’t break his crown. Where three blind mice got their tails fixed…and glasses too. Rhymes where Old Mother Hubbard found chips in her cupboard, where the old woman in the shoe knew exactly what to do.  The kids listened carefully and said, “Nah, Dad. Sing the one about the dead cat.”

I suppose there are advantages to knowing from a very early age that life may not turn out as we planned. Perhaps those who listen closely in the nursery begin to understand that life will be a wild assortment of the mundane and the adventurous, the sublime and the ridiculous. That people we trust will disappoint. Storms will come.

This is why the Bible has been fascinating me all my life. It holds nothing back. Its heroes struggle, its stories horrify us at times, even depress us. On the rocking chair I learned of Abraham’s lies, and David’s unfaithfulness. Of Jezebel’s dogs and Herod’s treachery. And in the midst of it all I discovered a Saviour who will never forsake us. Who bore our pain and our fear, and whispers to us in the darkest of places, “In this world you will have trouble, But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Perhaps I know now why I slept so well despite my mother’s nursery rhymes. You see, Mom always ended the day with an old hymn. I can still hear her singing while the rain and the wind beat against our windowpanes. I hadn’t a clue what the words meant. But I do now. Such an outlook changes everything.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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