Who doesn’t love traditions? They are an important part of the family unit.
Tonight I was invited to Shrove Tuesday dinner with my son and his family. Celebrating Shrove Tuesday with home-made pasta, braciole, pork, and meatballs is a tradition we’ve carried on from my childhood. In recent years, I’ve been unable to host dinner. I was happy that my son and his wife decided to make the traditional dinner this evening and happily joined them.
After dinner I played with the kids. I love all my grandchildren madly. I rarely miss an opportunity to visit. I offered to take my grandson up to bed and rocked him to sleep, a practice grandparents love. While we rocked, I sang my family’s version of “See Saw Margery Daw.” I think our “See Saw” qualifies as a family tradition.
Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme, “See Saw Margery Daw?” The rhyme first appeared in its modern form in Mother Goose’s Melody, published in London in around 1765. (source: Wikipedia.com).
A common modern version of the lyrics go:
See Saw Margery Daw,
Jacky shall have a new master;
Jacky shall earn but a penny a day,
Because he can’t work any faster.
I can imagine parents and grandparents down through the generations singing this little song to their children and grandchildren.
My family has sung “See Saw” to our littlest ones for years and years. That’s where the similarity ends. My family’s version is nothing like the original, except (I think) for the sing-song melody. I’m not sure when it began, but I remember hearing my grandparents sing it to me. Of course, it wasn’t always easy to understand their “broken English,” which was more Italian than English.
I remember my Dad singing it to us and to his grandchildren. I sang it to my son when he was a baby. I’ve sung it to each of my grandchildren and plan to continue the tradition. My sister sang it to her kids and now she sings it to her grandson. I’ve sung it to just about every baby I’ve cared for since I was an adult.
There is a proscribed method of singing the rhyme. First, you must have the little one stand on your thighs as you sit in a chair. Some of them will stand stiffly, not bending their knees. This posture makes for the best “rocking” motion. Some little ones don’t want to stand stiffly, so their little legs might buckle to the point where it’s easier to sit them on your lap. You grasp their extended arms by holding their hands and, as you sing, you rock them back and forth.
I cannot say with certainty that the words I sing are the same my grandparents and parents sang. I know that I am close enough so that I haven’t changed the original intent or meaning. Here is a portion of our version of “See Saw:”
It goes on for a few more lines and ends with a rousing, “Hurry up and go and get it!” at which point there is usually laughter and a tiny voice that says, “again!” Unless, of course, I am using the quiet style for lulling them to sleep. When that happens, we are usually in a rocking chair and I am snuggling with them as they drift off.
And, should you think that only the grown-up has a singing part, you are incorrect. My grandchildren typically are able to recite most of the song as toddlers. One of my granddaughters has been singing the song in its entirety since she was two!
I suppose you could say that my family’s version is just as nonsensical as the original. Nursery rhymes usually are. And, it really doesn’t matter how it sounds to the world, it only matters how it sounds to us. It only matters that it brings laughter and happiness. “See Saw” has been a family tradition for four generations. It’s a wonderful little family tradition. A tradition I hope continues for the next four generations.