Monday, February 25, 2013

Beautiful

While there may be some question as to whom the speaker is on various songs on this album, I am fairly certain Simon has not adopted-- as the speaker here has-- three babies from overseas.

The song uses the activities of a growing family to mark the time. It begins with the image of a melting "snowman," so we can assume the time is either during the January thaw or in, say, March, assuming the speaker lives in the northern U.S.

The family depicted, two adults and one baby, must have built the snowman together. Now, this image of outdoor playfulness is falling victim to having "a little bit too much fun," and its snow head has evaporated. This symbol might serve as a reminder to the parents of the, well, head-erasing "fun" they used to have before the demands of childcare. Now, they "don't have time to waste."

Still, they must feel a fondness for parenthood, because the next thing you know, they (quite alliteratively!) "brought a brand-new baby back from Bangladesh." They name her "Emily" (not, say "Brenda" or "Bessie") and-- if they say so themselves-- agree she is "beautiful."

Yes, the snowman is headless, but he somehow retains a corpulent "belly" despite the lack of a mouth, which the speaker finds amusing. The adults are still doing laundry, stepping over their now "two [children] on the kitchen floor." This seems to imply that both babies are less than a year old, and are not yet walking.

But still, neither is "brand-new" anymore! So, they add one who is, adopting this time from China. This baby, another girl, "sailed across the China Sea," which seems like an unnecessarily long ocean voyage for a newborn. It is possible that the word "sailed" is used metaphorically, and she was flown. Be that as it may, it she traveled across the Pacific, that would seem to imply that our family lives in the western half of the US.

And now it is "summertime." (Simon throws in a Beatles reference, saying that you don't need a "ticket to ride" the children's go-kart.) No laundry this time-- just a "water-slide," "danicin' in the grass" and a trip to "the candy stand." And we have a "kid" in the grass, not a "baby."

While the earlier reference to danger only affected the snowman, now we have a more strident (repeated) warning: "You better keep an eye of them children... in the pool." Sadly, children have been known to drown even in the shallowest of pools, so this is sage advice: Try not to have "too much fun," kids.

It also opens up the realization that, as their mobility increases, the dangers children face increase and change as well.

Now, we see the couple adopt again, this time from the Balkan region of Kosovo. Only... this was not a new adoption. This was "seven years ago"! The implication seems to be that this was their first child, the one who was in the "nursery" in the first verse.

Then, this, about him: "He cried all night, could not sleep." Children are subject to danger even before they are old enough to build snowmen or go down water-slides. They are subject to war, poverty, disease, and any number of other threats. Why could this baby not sleep? Some trauma, either violence or being orphaned? Illness or colic?

Yet, as difficult as those sleepless nights were, the couple went on to adopt (at least! the song is only so long!) two more children, each from a dangerous part of the world. They brought them back to raise them in relative safety, calm and comfort.

Why? They cannot seem to be able to answer that themselves. Adoption is an expensive process, in terms of money, but also hassle and potential anguish. Perhaps they were infertile; perhaps they felt it was wrong to have their own children when so many already needed good homes.

Perhaps reasons are not at play, but emotions. Even though their Kosovar baby was sleepless (and made them so), they found his eyes "bright, dark, and deep." The found him-- and their other babies-- to be, in a word, "beautiful."

Yes, they will not bear children. Yes, adoption is a grueling struggle. As is baby-raising itself. When it is not tiresome, it's potentially terrifying ("Keep your eye on them children by the pool.").

And yet the answer to danger and drama is not to shut down or shut off. Yes, the snowman was doomed the minute he was patted together and adorned with button eyes-- but he did have some fun while he was around.

And yes, raising children is difficult, even dangerous. But the answer to fear is beauty. Even if life is fragile, it is still worth it. Even if the pool is hazardous, you still jump in-- you just make sure there is a lifeguard.

Is there war? Poverty? Death? Well, the answer to death is life, and more life. The answer to families being rent apart is families being sewn together. The answer to poverty and oppression and war is babies and beauty.

The answer to a melted snowman is to get some more snowman-builders, so you can build a bigger one the next time it snows, and he'll last longer. Or maybe you could build a whole snow-family, so even when they melt, they can all melt together and none has to face losing face (and head!) alone.

Oh, and my two-and-a-half year old already helps with the laundry. So there's that, too.


Next Song: I Don't Believe


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