Tammy sings to herself beneath the bed covers, “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”
She pauses. She hears the thudding of her heart, and the silence of the room.
The silence doesn’t last long, before it’s again filled with her father’s angry slurs and her mother’s retaliation through her sobs.
“And if that mockingbird won’t sing, Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”
She continues to sing to herself, as if the childhood lullaby would bring back a time of innocence, when she didn’t know what the yelling was for, and what it meant. A time when she had no worries for what would happen to her family, and what would happen to her.
She closes her eyes, as tears stream down her cheeks. She bites her lips and realises that her whole body is shaking in fear. She sings louder, as if the gentleness from the lullaby can drown out the voices in the room next door.
“And if that diamond ring turns brass, Papa’s gonna buy you a looking-glass.”
Her parents think she cannot hear, but she can hear every tone of anger and every pitch of hysteria. She is all too familiar with the sound of hate. The voices get louder, and she sinks deeper under the covers, knowing all too well what would happen next.
She jumps, startled, as a glass is smashed on the wall. She hears her mother scream in pain, yelling at her father to stop and let her go.
She can hear herself crying and screaming under the covers for them to stop. To stop the fighting. To stop the yelling. To stop the anger, the hurt, the pain. She cries in fear, in hopelessness.
She cries for a long time, until all is silent outside. She does not dare to leave the darkness of her bedroom for fear of what she will find.
She cries herself to sleep. She wants to sing her lullaby, but she can’t remember the last line.
If only her parents knew what terrible fear and pain they were inflicting upon Tammy with their anger and selfishness. If only they knew that all Tammy wanted was to be able to fall asleep without tears on her face and that tight knot in her heart. If only they knew how desperately Tammy wanted to hear the rest of that lullaby, they may have sung her to sleep.
“And if that billy-goat falls down, You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.”
9 December 2010