“Mothers and Children”

Lyrics

(sung by Olivia)

[sighs; spoken] We’ve looked enough for Big Bird. Look at this statue—a mother and baby. You know, as long as there have been people, there have been mothers and children all over the world. And people have made pictures and statues of them, so we can think of them and remember them.

Mothers and children from long ago
Mothers and children from far away
So many of them, being together
It’s always been that way

Some of them lived in dusty castles
Some of them lived where monkeys play
Each of them caring for the other
Just as they do today

Sharing a story, playing a game
Looking alike—well, almost the same
In cities and jungles and deserts and farms
See all the mothers with kids in their arms
In happy times, sad times
Hungry times, glad times
There always have been, there always will be
Mothers and children needing each other
Just like you and me

[repeat]
Sharing a story, playing a game
Looking alike—well, almost the same
In cities and jungles and deserts and farms
See all the mothers with kids in their arms
In happy times, sad times
Hungry times, glad times
There always have been, there always will be
Mothers and children needing each other
Just like you and me

 

Music by Stephen Lawrence, lyrics by Tony Geiss


“Mothers and Children” from Don’t Eat the Pictures

My mom always called Olivia “the only person on Sesame Street who could actually sing.” I’m not that harsh a judge, but I agree that her voice here is perfect—soft and full and rich, lulling the two kids with her to sleep in perfect safety.

I suppose for most of my life, I thought of this song just the way it’s written, mothers and children in the abstract. I loved looking at the art, varied and beautiful, and sinking into Olivia’s voice. Of course, my own mother was probably my biggest exposure to art when I was growing up, so that adds an extra layer of nostalgia and meaning for me.

But nowadays it makes me think of my sister and her two baby girls, who I’m only days away from seeing at Christmas. And now my only complaint with the song is the phrase “looking alike,” as my nieces are both adopted. The phrase is somewhat softened by the addition of “well, almost the same,” but it makes me wonder about all the mothers and children who don’t look anything alike. All those who know they’ll spend a lifetime correcting strangers, “Yes, they’re my family.”

But then I think of the lines “just as they do today” and “it’s always been that way.” Just as biological families have always existed, so have adopted families. There have always been biological mothers separated from their kids by death, abandonment, and difficult circumstances, and there have always been individuals and communities ready to welcome those kids and call them family. Nearly everyone has at least one person in their life who isn’t biologically related but who they came to love so much that they became family. And (while it may have started out as a way for men to make alliances with each other through trading their daughters) marriage has become just that—choosing someone to become your family and making that love official, legal, permanent. Adoption is the same.

There always have been, there always will be. World without end, Amen.

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