On the morning of September 11th, 2001 I was a nanny for an infant I’ll call Chrissy. I was hanging out with Chrissy in the living room of her family’s home, watching a Little House on the Prairie rerun. During a commercial, I walked into the connected kitchen to get something. When I turned the corner back to the living room, I saw news footage on the TV of what appeared to be a building blowing up. In the few moments before I comprehended what was being shown, I wondered why they were showing footage of the Oklahoma City bombing. Was it an anniversary or something?
Once I realized what was happening, I was glued to the screen, watching the horror unfold. It was hard to know how to react, what to feel, what to think, and what to expect. I lived in Atlanta at the time, and people on the news were speculating that there may be additional targets in Atlanta – CNN, perhaps. Chrissy’s parents worked for a government agency and weren’t allowed to leave work. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt unable to tear my eyes away from the TV. What was I supposed to do?
And then Chrissy was crying and it was the time of day for her bottle and nap. So I did exactly what I did every other day, twice a day. I made her bottle, took her up to her bedroom, hit play on the CD player that played the same CD I played every single nap time, and sat down in the rocking chair with her. I felt agitated. I wanted to get back to the TV. What was happening now? What was I missing?
The very first song on the CD was a lullaby called Rock-a-Bye (Mallory’s Song). I’d heard this song at least a hundred times as Chrissy’s nanny, but on this day one particular line stood out.
Things less important will just have to keep
While I rock-a-bye my baby to sleep.
On a normal day, perhaps the author of the song meant that things like laundry and phone calls and washing the dog will just have to keep. But on this day I felt that ultimately, it’s all less important. The world was falling down outside, tragedy raining from the skies, but here in this moment all I had to do was love and take care of this baby.
Broadly speaking, the song was a reminder that regardless of what’s happening out in the world, the small day-to-day details still must be attended to. Even more broadly speaking, the song was a reminder that in the face of tragedy we have to go on caring for each other. At its simplest and most straightforward, though, it was like a mantra: “It’s my job to rock this baby to sleep. Nothing else matters.”
Fast forward 10 years, and I have a baby of my own to care for. Nothing like 9/11 has popped up in Dylan’s short life. I own the same CD, though, and a corner of my bedroom is set up with a rocking chair and a CD player. Dylan is still tiny and has no need for a regular naptime or a musical routine to help put him to sleep. But, I am sometimes stressed out for one reason or another and am in need of a reminder. So I sit myself down in the rocker, hit play on the CD player, snuggle my sweet tiny baby into my arms, rock back and forth and sing to Dylan and to myself:
“Things less important will just have to keep, while I rock-a-bye my baby to sleep.”
And it’s all less important.