"Baby Beluga" -- or, more accurately, the real whale who inspired the fictional Baby Beluga -- has died.
I never actually saw the white whale, whose real name, I just learned, was Kavna. But I spent practically every day with her lyrical counterpart for months on end when my children were younger. She came along on car rides, and appeared at bedtimes, and got stuck in my head (where, of course, she is right now).
"Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea," sang children's pied piper Raffi Cavoukian (I didn't know his full name until today, either.) "Swim so wild and you swim so free."
She was 46 years old when she died on Monday, at the Vancouver Aquarium where Raffi (sorry, I just can't call him Cavoukian) was lucky enough to play with her in 1979. That was 15 years before my own kids "met" her, and sang along, over and over and over again, to her story. "Heaven above and the sea below, and a little white whale on the go."
Our lives have soundtracks. Music is memory. And when you become a parent, your playlist is infiltrated -- sometimes hijacked -- by the songs your kids loved and the moments when they sang them.
Raffi was a big part of our family's score. There was "Baby Beluga," of course, and also "Let's Do the Numbers Rhumba" -- which Evan adorably mangled as "Next to the Numbers Rhumbuck," and which we still sing that way today. "Sesame Street" was, too (this was before they started focusing on spoofs of other artists , and wrote original music for Elmo (Elmo's song!) and Ernie (Rubber Ducky!)
Way down yonder where the dolphins play,
Where you dive and splash all day,
Waves roll in and the waves roll out.
See the water squirting out of your spout.
Not all the songs in our family album were written with kids in mind. Evan's earliest favorites were from Broadway, and before he could speak in sentences, he could burst forth with the last word in each line of "Tomorrow" from "Annie." ("The sun will come out ... MORROW, Bet your bottom dollar that ... MORROW, they'll be SUN.")
And to this day both my boys can sing pretty much every word of "Les Miserables," because we listened to the cast album for hours on end as we drove the three-plus hours to and from Boston to visit their cousins. When Evan spent one endless night in an ICU when he was 5, we sang most of those quietly together, and they finally calmed him and helped him sleep.
Music, scientists and documentary filmmakers tell us music reaches elderly patients as no other therapy can, and unlocks memories in profound ways. I imagine it does the same for us at all ages. It is a link between me and my own childhood, between my children and myself, and, when my kids one day reach back and share these tunes with their own families, it will harmonize past, present and future.
When it's dark, you're home and fed.
Curled up snug in your waterbed.
Moon is shining and the stars are out.
Good night, little whale, good night.
Good night, indeed.
I spent this morning thinking about a little white whale, and also about two boys who loved to sing her story. I miss them all, but I am grateful to carry them with me.
What songs make up the soundtrack of your family's life? Tweet it to me at #kidsoundtrack, and we'll gather them together into an "album".