You’ve heard the song if you’ve seen that one television advertisement for Sleep Number beds.
While you were sleeping your babies grew
The stars shined and the shadows moved
It’s a song from Elvis Perkins’s Ash Wednesday album, titled (appropriately enough) “While You Were Sleeping” - a logical choice by the advertising folks who are trying to sell expensive high-tech bed gear to families with children.
It’s been a few years since I first heard that song. At the time I had been enroute from the wilds of the Northeast, headed towards Atlanta along with Elder Daughter, both of us passengers in the Mistress of Sarcasm’s car. It was coming on evening, grey and drizzly, as we cruised down Interstate 81 near Roanoke, Virginia, when “While You Were Sleeping” came on the radio. The lyrics grabbed me by the throat on the very first listen. Before we had gone ten miles down the road, I had already added the song to the growing library of tunes piled up in the electronic bowels of my smartphone.
While you were sleeping you tossed you turned
You rolled your eyes as the world burned
The heavens fell the earth quaked
I thought you must be but you weren’t awake, no
You were dreaming...
Those lyrics afflicted me with a powerful, sweet melancholy, magnified by my being in the presence of our own babies. They were no longer babies, of course. They had grown while we were sleeping, while the stars shined and the shadows moved.
While you were sleeping I tossed and I turned too
I closed my eyes but the future burned through
The planet turned a hair grey as I relived the day
Dee first heard the song when it appeared in that advertisement, and she had the same visceral, gut-punched reaction to it that I had... to the extent that she immediately grabbed the rest of the Ash Wednesday album.
Why does that song resonate so strongly for both of us? Why can’t I listen to it without getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye? Is it the image of fleeting time, big events, and life speeding past us in the seeming blink of an eye?