Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Story: Good Night!

I'm having a flaring up of ME/CFS symptoms so no art for today's blog. I did show a project I was beginning in yesterday's blog, if you care to look!


Good Night!
40th in the Tuesday Story Series

As I have stated in several other stories, my grandparents on my father's side lived towards the middle of the state, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Charleston SC in the days before Interstate 26 was built. We usually would go for the day (usually a Sunday) and that would mean returning home late at night. I say late, because most of the time the next day was a school day and for a bunch of kids to arrive home past their bedtimes meant whiny attitudes preceded bed, and then ran over into the next morning.  

Most of the time the children would fall asleep in the car on the way home. As I grew older, I would stay awake and my favorite activity was to stare out into the dark, and imagine the families behind the lit windows, away across a field, or in the big houses of the small towns we would pass through. I especially loved the clear nights which showed the stars densely packed in the skies. There was very little light pollution then, and our own galaxy, the Milky Way would just draw me in. These days, you have to go to very out of the way places to see the full Milky Way, and that makes me sad. The stars that one sees from the yard usually don't have any impact because their numbers are few and they just don't inspire awe in the viewer. We need that awe to remind us that there are many great things out there which we don't understand, but can enjoy the beauty. In fact, the beauty is really necessary!

Yes, it looked just like this.

The other aspect of those trips home would involve my parents singing. My mother didn't get her driver's license until I was 15, so my father did all the driving. They would softly sing together for miles - hymns, popular songs from their time in the Navy during WW II and other ditties so that my father would stay awake. One I remember hearing always left me thinking it was odd - Good Night, Irene. 

Published by Huddie Ledbetter (commonly called Leadbelly Ledbetter) in 1934, you can sometimes still hear the folk song sung at different events. It's a sad song, and expresses the singer's frustration about his romance with Irene gone wrong. But as a child, I just remember how odd the verses were to me, unfamiliar as I was to romance. Especially this one:

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town.
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump in the river and drown.

Wait!............. REALLY??

My parents would just be singing it out, and I was pondering over the facts that you live in the country, you live in the town (Ok, I got this part) but then you just want to go jump in the river? What, you are tired of the country or town? Why would you want to drown? I thought that was the oddest song to even sing! And then I couldn't ask my parents about it because they thought I was asleep, and I didn't want to wake the others. Then, I'd forget about it until the next trip home from my grandparents house.

Years later, of course it made a little more sense. I would sometimes even sing along, since I was older then and not expected to fall asleep. As I think about it now, my parents probably missed those times of thinking we were all asleep, because they felt freer to talk. There were some interesting conversations, but that's another story!

This first version is Leadbelly singing it with the original words.

This version was done by the folk group, The Weavers. It became a hit song about 1950, and this was the version my parents sang. The Weavers changed some of the lyrics, but it was still a song about romance gone wrong.

Good Night Irene has been recorded by some famous names in music, such as Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton, even Frank Sinatra! But no matter who sings it, when I hear it, it takes me back to traveling in the dark, staring out at the starry skies and hearing my parents sing.

Come see my latest postcards I've received on Postcards Buffet!


  1. My family sang away those long car trips when I was a child as well. What a great memory!

  2. My Mom and I sang together and loved that song. I still remember all the words.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs, Amy

  3. Hope you are feeling better. I have M.E / CFS too and it can be so frustrating!

    Take care x

  4. Totally remember Goodnight Irene!!! Coming home from Granpop's I would sleep up on the back seat in the back window and look at the stars too. Wouldn't be able to do that today, but it was fun and a way to get by myself. I always felt so secure to be with Mom and Pop. I so hope your days get better! It is amazing that your beautiful postcard arrived looking as beautiful as when you mailed it, and I adore it!! I love you!


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