The Chords of Childhood

Alana Gomez, Sports Editor

“Mistress Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” This age-old rhyme has left the mouths of children around the world in the spirit of fun and innocence. It is just another children’s rhyme, except for the part where “Mistress Mary” refers to Queen Mary I of England, whose infamous nickname happens to be “Bloody Mary.” Oh, and the garden referred to by the children is actually a graveyard of executed Protestants, slain on the orders of famed Bloody Mary herself. Although we don’t realize it, many of the children’s rhymes we used to sing so innocently on the playground have dark, hidden meanings.

The children’s song “Rock-a-bye-baby” begins harmlessly enough, until you get to the well-known verse, “down will come baby, cradle and all.” Many parents savor the memory of rocking their little ones to sleep to this simple lullaby and should not be disturbed by the thought of of their own baby falling out of a tree to their death. I say, out with the old and in with the new, by new I mean something classier than death by cradle treetop.

We all can remember twirling around in a circle of linked hands when we were younger, singing the notorious line “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” “Ring around the Rosie,” a rhyme that was inspired by a disease that killed over 20 million Europeans in the 1300s, alludes to The Black Death. Today, children sing this rhyme with the belief that there is no darker subtext to the tune. In actuality, ‘Rosie’ is a reference to a rash that infected patients obtained on their skin. The “pocket full of posies” were worn to rid the smell of rotting flesh the rashes caused. This is quite morbid for a child to be singing, especially when you get to the “ashes, ashes” part, which of course refers to the cremating of the victims The Black Death took.

The songs and nursery rhymes that we know and love are tradition, and traditions are hard to change, but when I think about how my childhood happiness was based off of rhymes with cruel origins, I start to shudder. Although at a young age, I couldn’t read between the lines into the morbid truths that made up the seemingly colorful rhymes, I often wish those songs had not been sung to me, and those rhymes not been said before I went to sleep. Now, when I hear the voice of my little sister softly singing “London Bridge is falling down,” I can only freeze in terror as her voice rings through my head. In that moment, I’m back to being a child, spinning around in that circle of children, waiting in anticipation for that moment where we all fall down.