Thursday, September 6, 2012
In 2002, the Dixie Chicks released Home, a very acoustic bluegrassy album that I just adored. There were plenty of things I loved about it, but my favorite was, and is, track 11, a sweet little song called "Godspeed", written by the fantastic Radney Foster. The second I heard it, I swore to myself that if ever I was a mother of boys, it would be my signature song for them.
In 2004, I became a temporary mother to my sweet nephews, Canaan, Cameron, and Connor. Baby Cody was born and came to live with us the following year, and I kept my promise. Eventually known as the "night-night song", "Godspeed" became the song they expected me to sing and play on my guitar most nights before they went to bed. Once Canaan was old enough to learn the words, his crackly little singing voice could be heard hitting the high notes with me on the chorus. I would change the words from time to time to adjust to whichever superhero was their current favorite. Superman was almost always replaced by Spiderman. Superman just wasn't cool enough. And they would laugh, knowing that I was technically singing it wrong. And I can see them right now, four little boys in pajamas. Four pairs of scrawny legs dangling down from the bottom bunk, swinging their feet and enjoying the last few minutes of freedom before they would be forced to go to sleep. And occasionally, they would get other songs out of me, depending on the time and how exhausted I was. But "Godspeed" was their favorite. It was the one they could count on hearing when they only got one. It was my prayer for them.
Three years later- three years of diapers and bottles and potty training and hugs and sleepless night and the occasional spanking- my boys went home to Texas to live with their parents. And five years later, it still makes me cry to think about. But less than a month after they left, I attended a concert in Nashville. And is usually the case in Nashville, musicians draw musicians. So while I was standing in line, waiting to get into the venue, I noticed songwriter Radney Foster in line. I was feeling brave, and I rarely am around famous people, so I went up and introduced myself and had my picture taken with him. Later that night, I approached him again to talk to him about the song, and he told me his story. He wrote the song for his son that was moving to France with his mother. There was nothing he could do to prevent him from going, so he wrote the song for his son so that he would have a reminder that he was loved. And I knew I had chosen right. Of all the songs in the world I could have chosen, I chose the one that was written by someone who knew what it was like to let a child go. To have no control over that last goodbye. To fight and lose.
My boys have grown up a lot. They are no longer toddlers. Canaan is almost 13, and his little brothers are not far behind him. They live about an hour away, and I see them at our family get-togethers. I am lucky to get a hug out of them when I see them. They pretend to have outgrown hugs, and I am pretty sure they have outgrown the song. When they come to stay the night, they don't ask for it like they used to. And that's okay. Because in my head, it's all still there. And though they may not hear it anymore, my prayer for them has never changed. Godspeed, little guys. Your Aunt Julie loves you.