The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Childhood Terrors

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take

My parents taught me that prayer when I was five or six. I still remember the first night we recited it. I stared at my bedroom ceiling for hours, suddenly aware that despite my good health, I could be struck dead in the middle of the night. The best hope my God could offer me was that he would take my soul rather than the Devil.

After I was picking up my kids from school today, my seven- year old daughter complained about her substitute teacher:

“She made us sing, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean over and over again. I hate that song,” said Elena.

I was amazed. Despite my tendency to like the nostalgic, I hate that song too, mostly because of my poor musical hearing. For years, I thought it was:

My body lies over the ocean,
My body lies over the sea,
My body lies over the ocean,
Oh bring back my body to me.
Bring back, bring back, bring back, bring back my body to me, to me…

I thought the narrator was a ghost, who had drowned, and longed to be reunited with his lost, now decomposing corpse. I couldn’t understand how my elementary school music teacher could sing it with such gaiety, while I was chilled to the core. I began to despise her, and the song.

I remembered sitting in my pink-striped bedroom, just a month or two after my nighttime prayer became something I said, rather than something I thought. I imagined the spook-like voyager, looking for his lost body. If he didn’t notice his own remains bobbing in the waves, might he take my body? I would pull the covers over my head, shut my eyes tightly, because everyone knows ghosts only go after those who are awake, and recite the children’s nighttime prayer as a protective talisman. I would fall asleep for real a couple of hours later.

I told Elena.

“I think that song is about an immigrant yearning for his immigrant girlfriend who has journeyed overseas, which a lot of people did in those days. I thought Bonnie was “body,” however. Did you ever think that, Elena?”

I hoped that I wasn’t the only person in the world misled by the song.

Elena looked at me, rather confused, and said no.

“Oh, well, I still think it would be better if it was, “My Katie lies over the ocean, My Katie lies over the sea… Bonnie is such a weird name,” I said.

My ten-year old son, Walker, quiet until now, added: “Didn’t Scottish people say bonnie when they meant any pretty girl?”

I grimaced.

“Bonnie is still confusing,” I said. Elena began to sing, “My Beth lies over the ocean, my Beth lies over the sea…”

I told her Beth didn’t have enough syllables, and luckily, we arrived at home.

By Beth Touchette-Laughlin


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