Growing up, one of my fondest memories was my dad rocking me and my sisters asleep to James Taylor’s ‘Sweet Baby James’. That song is very special to me and my family. It would be the opening and closing song to the soundtrack of my life. It has been played and sung by my dad at all of our weddings. For the longest time, after I became a young adult up until recently, I refused to listen to it because it would bring me to tears from the memories it would stir.
Now that I am a dad, Mr. Taylor is a mainstay once again in a Viola household and ‘Sweet Baby James’ can be heard, being sung slightly off-key, on a nightly basis. My family doesn’t have too many traditions, but singing that song is one I plan on keeping alive and well. Every night since Ava has been born, she has been sung that song. Each time she has fallen peacefully asleep.
There is a trick to it, however. You can’t just sing the song as is. When my dad sung it, during the chorus, instead of singing the actual words of, “…and rock-a-bye sweet baby James,” he would sing, “…and rock-a-bye sweet baby Nicole, Dana, and Buck,” at a slightly more rapid tempo to fit it all in. I am ‘Buck’ if you were wondering, that is my nickname in my family, I can’t remember the story of where my dad got it from. To this day I am ‘Buck’ to my sisters and parents, as well as ‘Uncle Buck’ to my nieces and nephews.
Anyway, back to the song, I now sing, “…and rock-a-bye sweet baby Ava.” It has a nice ring to it, no? I stand with her in my arms, every night, swaying her as James Taylor strums away on my iPod. Back in the 80’s, my dad used a stereo system that took up a whole corner of the room, with James Taylor coming off vinyl or a cassette tape. My iPod player takes up a small corner of my dresser.
Though the technology has changed, the song remains the same as I one day too hope to sing ‘Sweet Baby James’ at Ava’s wedding, seeing the tears well-up in her eyes as the fond memories of that song bring her back to a time when her daddy held her lovingly in his arms, safe from all the worlds harms.