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Mama, Sing, Mama, Sing

I sing to my son a lot. The not particularly musical me started singing when my son was born, after so many years of not singing anything. Or singing rarely. Once I started using my voice to sing, I found the place where my voice was most comfortable. Then singing just got easy.

As we are getting dressed, before Andrei falls asleep, at bedtime and before his nap, as we are walking down the street, as I am pushing the stroller, when it feels the house is too quiet. It feels like the songs are always there, so easy to reach, so why not sing?

I always sing in Serbian (with the exception of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a song Andrei loves). I sing the songs I remember from my childhood, like Najlepsa mama na svetu, Ivin Voz, Bracu Ne Donose Rode, and those that I maybe knew of, but didn’t hear often when I was a child, such as Tata, kupi mi auto. Then I sing the songs I have always loved such as Makedonsko devojce, Bolujem ja, Biljana platno belese. For every single one of these songs I had to find the lyrics and memorize them before I could sing them to my son.

But this is what has happened recently a few times: I sing for a while. Andrei is not even close to falling asleep (maybe he took a long nap, or we missed his “window of opportunity” or whatever), but every time I stop singing, he says, Mama, Sing, Mama, Sing. And I continue to sing. But then I run out of songs because my repertoire is not that wide so I start singing the same songs for the second time, and then, while I am in that searching-for -a-new-song mode, I slip into this place in my memory I didn’t even know still existed. I pull out these songs that I heard far too often when I was a child, probably in school celebrations of the holidays, the songs about being a pioneer, partisans, and what not. I am curious if I am really going to remember those lyrics so I continue to sing these songs to my son. I feel amazed by the power of human memory, and, at the same time, I feel funny because here I am singing Pioniri maleni or Po sumama i gorama simply because I still remember those lyrics and because they are attached to other memories from that period of my life.

At this point, decades and hundreds of miles away from that world and that life that I lived then, I am happy that my son is too young to actually interrupt me to ask, Mama, What is fascism? What is a pioneer? I can simply rummage through my memory without being asked to explain anything, and I can afford to sing solely because I remember something. In another six months, I will be able to share with my son what my life was when I was a child, but I will probably have to provide an introduction, a conclusion, and a lot of explanations along the way.

There once was a country that we loved and believed in…

And then?

I am not sure how I am going to explain what happened to Yugoslavia.  Or why.

I have a few months to think about how to present the history of my country to my young son.

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