Rocking a baby to sleep is one of life’s lovely little pleasures. Well, at least that’s true as long as said baby, not particularly interested in going to sleep, isn’t screaming its darling little head off.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the case the other morning with my one-year-old granddaughter. She was just a bit reluctant to settle down for her nap, so I sat down in the rocker and sang to her. For whatever reason, when I sing to little ones they seem to slip right into dreamland. Given my singing voice, my theory is that they do it in sheer self-defense. Never mind; if it works, it works.
In this case, it only took two times through “The Frozen Logger,” before she was sound asleep. I just sat for a little while, soaking in the pleasure of holding her and watching her beautiful little face as she slept.
During this meditative interlude, the song kept going around and around in my mind. “The Frozen Logger,” is a folk song by James Stevens that I learned from a recording by The Weavers. It has several qualities that make it a good lullaby. It’s a fun little story song, set to a waltz, so the words are easy to remember. It doesn’t have any inconvenient low notes or annoying high notes. And, most important, it has a lot of verses and can be repeated more or less indefinitely.
The longer I sat, though, the more I started to wonder about the song. Chiefly, whether it was really an appropriate one for a conscientious grandma to use as a lullaby. After all, it’s about a guy so tough he “stirs his coffee with his thumb.” Not only that, “if you’d pour whiskey on it, he would eat a bale of hay.”
Then I remembered how that classic lullaby, “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” ends. “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” Given the potential trauma to an infant psyche from this happy thought, I decided not to worry about mere bare-digit coffee stirring.
Then I got distracted by another thought. Suppose you have a cup of steaming hot coffee, fresh from the pot. Or you’ve just poured boiling water over a tea bag. There’s no way you would stick your thumb in that cup.
Yet some people have no problem whatsoever in drinking coffee while it’s still steaming. Or in sipping tea that’s been cooled from the boiling point by only a tiny splash of milk.
I’m one of those people. This is why I rarely order coffee in restaurants. It isn’t hot enough. So I gulp it quickly before it cools, and then the waitress comes by and fills it up again, and I have to drink that while it’s hot. And before I’ve finished my omelet I’ve had six cups, and I’m so full of caffeine that my hands shake for the rest of the morning, and if I tried to send a text, LOL would probably come out KIK.
What’s the explanation for that? Are our tongues—sensitive organs so capable of detecting subtle tastes that they can tell the difference between two brands of chocolate—really that tough? More to the point, are they really that much tougher than our thumbs? After all, thumbs, besides being one of the things making us human, are calloused, hard-working digits.
Maybe—to save others the trouble of pointing it out—I should just admit the most likely truth. Apparently, some of us exercise our tongues more than we do our thumbs.