Song Without An End
by Julia Sneden
“This is the song that never ends;
It just goes on and on, my friends.
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
And they’ll continue singing it forever, just because
This is the song that never ends
It just goes on and on, my …
… etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam, and ad, if you will, insanity. As in Over and Over and Over.
According to Wikipedia, we may thank composer/writer Norman Martin for this little but endless ditty. Having heard it through several kindergarten generations of delighted children, I can testify that it qualifies as the earworm from hell.
There are many things in our lives that do not end, worthy things like sunrises and sunsets that operate quite independently from our witness, although no doubt there is an astronomer somewhere who will point out that the sun will one day grow dim or maybe explode, in which case sunrises and sunsets will cease to happen, although no one will be around to witness, let alone mourn them.
Words like “forever” are relative. It means one thing to that astronomer, and quite another to someone enduring a painful root canal. Speaking in the context of human life, “forever” may constitute just about any time span, as in: “Oh, this old dress? I’ve had it forever!”
But for most of us, forever means simply something that endures throughout one’s life, or maybe throughout a few generations. Consider: “my family has loved dogs forever,” or “My grandmother says that at least one child in this family has always had a dimple.”
The long line of humanity stretches back to what feels like forever, although the fossil record would deny it. Certainly we look at the patterns of human life and identify instincts and reactions that seem to have been around forever. Babies are born; children grow up; adults do their best to protect their young, until eventually the young can take care of themselves; and often, the former protectees wind up protecting their weakening elders. The round goes on, yes, for what we call forever.
Someone once said that parenthood, if you do it right, is a self-destructing chore. The point is that kids grow up and seize the reins of their own lives, and launch themselves into the adult world. Some parents find this hard to accept. Some are thrilled to be let off the hook. Most, I suspect, find a kind of balance between the two extremes, feeling pride and delight in the kids’ independence, joy in the anticipation of grandchildren, and – dare I say it? – relief that they have met the requirements of child-rearing, coupled with a thrill of freedom from it.
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