Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SING (08/16/18)
- TITLE: Squirrely Shirley
By Donna Powers
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Look, It's not as weird as it sounds.
The squirrel is a stuffed toy, and it was mine when I was her age. Our squirrel is soft and cuddly, but it shows its age. Its left eye was long ago replaced by a button, and its once-fluffy tail has grown thin and worn through so many years of our cuddling. On its belly is embroidered its name: "Shirley". The "I" in its name is an embroidered heart. The name was embroidered by my mother. It was my name - and now it's the name of my daughter, too.
The squirrel - and its name - are part of a nighttime ritual started by Mom; when I was very young. Mom loved music, and in addition to listening to all kinds of music, she loved to make up silly songs. Some of my favorite ones by her included "Somebody Ate My Comb," (made up on a day when she just couldn't find a comb); "I Wish I Had a Zillion Bucks," for days when she paid bills, or "Let's Go Make a Snowman Dance!" to entice me to play outdoors when the weather turned snowy.
I grew up loving her silly songs, and that love developed into my lifelong passion for writing songs. I've never written anything to rival "Cat Food Is a Wonderful Thing to Eat," (which she sang when feeding our tabby, Buddy) but my songs have helped supplement my income as a music teacher.
But my favorite of Mom's songs is the one she sang each night before I went to sleep. Every night, after my bath and brushing my teeth, she'd come into my room and ask the same question.
"Good evening, sweetie!" she'd begin. " Are you my Squirrely Girl?"
I'd always pretend indignance when I answered, "My name is Shirley, and I'm not a squirrel!"
Her eyebrows would shoot upwards in mock surprise. "You're not? Are you sure?"
When I'd say yes, I was sure, she would smile and hold me tight.
Then, she sang her little song:
"Mommy knows you are a very good girl.
Mommy knows you are not a squirrel.
Mommy loves you and says 'good night.'
God keep you safe 'til morning's light."
I know it's a silly song - but I loved it. When she was in a teasing mood, she'd call me "Squirrely Shirley," but I knew that was Mommy-ese for "I love you." Over the years, she made up many more silly songs, but that song ended all my childhood days and sent me to sleep each night feeling loved and cherished.
On my tenth birthday, she surprised me with the stuffed squirrel. I was delighted - and began including it in our nighttime routine. I'd begin by hiding "Squirrely Shirley" under my pillow. Then, when she asked me if I was sure I wasn't a squirrel, I'd pop the stuffed squirrel out from under my pillow and squeal, "No, but she is!" She'd then include Squirrely Shirley in our goodnight hug. As I drifted off to sleep, Squirrely Shirley was always clutched tightly in my arms.
My Mom passed away while I was in college, but the comforting memories of her songs and our nighttime routine stayed fresh in my mind. When I had a daughter, I named her Shirley - and gave her the stuffed squirrel as soon as she was old enough to participate in the ritual.
The routine thrills my little Shirley as much as it once thrilled me, and I sing that same silly song with gusto. When I sing it, I can almost hear my Mom's voice singing along with me. It brings her memory into the room, and the three of us (along with the squirrel) are reunited by the melody of love.
Proverbs 3:24 " When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." (NIV)
This is not a true story, but most of the silly songs (including the nighttime song) were made up by my mother or myself.
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