It starts off with the Flopsy Bunnies cheerfully singing along together "We don't care, we don't care, we don't care a fig, there's a lettuce in the pantry but it isn't very big. It won't last tomorrow, I'm sorry to say, but tomorrow is another day..." and goes on to tell the tale of how the little rabbits went over to Peter Rabbit's place to ask for some cabbages, how they got in to some trouble along the way, but how they eventually escaped and got home safely to their family with plenty to eat. Many of us, I'm sure, grew up with these wonderfully innocent tales from Beatrix Potter - but it wasn't until this evening when I heard the entire track again for the first time in 35 or 40 years (!) that I realised the relevance and importance of this particular audio track.
There is one particular song that has stayed with me throughout my entire life, and I must say I have often wondered at the significance. But now I've just heard it again in sequence with the rest of the story and the accompanying songs, everything is falling in to place - and old memories have been triggered. For me, the story tells of a bunch of cheerful rabbits (children) with a bright outlook and a remarkably positive attitude to life. The crisp British accents, and the innocence of the jolly songs is, perhaps, just a quaint peep back at yesteryear... but it's something that I now know for certain put me in good stead to deal with the challenges I've faced and overcome since my own childhood. And it serves to remind me just how important it is that we teach our children well. How important early influences can be and how, if they're the right ones, they can carry us through for many many years to come.
The Flopsy Bunnies, you see, worked together and looked after each other. Together they faced and overcame the dangers of becoming made in to rabbit pie, outwitting the gardener who was intent on capturing them for his tea. All the time they kept a jolly smile on their faces, and nurtured a certainty that all would work out in the end. They'd been taught by their parents, you see, that all they needed to find food (nourishment and safety) was "a nose and a little faith" lessons they had learned by means of a song, Follow Your Heart.
When I was a little girl, it was simply the fact that I liked the tune - and, fancying myself as a bit of an actress, I'd spend hours singing the song and acting out the story to my 'audience' of dolls and teddies - and sometimes my baby sister if I could get her to sit still long enough! As an adult, the song has come to mean so much more to me. For it is something I have regularly referred back to during times of trouble. Just remembering the crisp clear voice of the singer, and the gentle tinkling music in the background, has transported me back to those times of innocence and magic, and helped me to remember that things are OK and that somehow there is always a way through - no matter what. It has reminded me that I can get through anything, that the most important thing is to believe and to listen to myself - that I am OK, that I can find a better way and that I will survive.
I can remember first listening to that record snuggled up in the arms of my Daddy - breathing in the smells of tobacco on his thick woolen jumper, and listening to the deep tones of his voice resonating through his chest as he hummed along to the tunes. As of this evening, I can now also remember singing the song to myself quietly in bed, tears streaming silently down my face after he had died. I remember singing it in my head to help create an attitude of defiance whenever the tears threatened to fall again when I went back to school. I also remember writing the lyrics in my orange covered school rough book when mum was taken ill, and again many more times after she had died. Last year, when I discovered my husband's betrayals, I would hum the tune and try to sing the words through the sobs and my desperate feelings of abandonment. And you know what? It worked.
It worked not only because each time it took me back to that sense of safety and warmth with my father, but also because the simple words actually tell a story. It worked because despite everything that happened, I have been able to keep myself open, to do exactly as the words advised all those years ago. To follow my heart, just as the song invites, and to find love and peace in a world that had on many occasions threatened to engulf me.
Tonight, as I heard the song for the first time in decades, the tears rolled freely down my cheeks - but this time the tears were of joy and gratitude. Gratitude that I am who I am and that I am whereI am. As parents we're encouraged to teach our children well? Well, I was taught very well indeed, by very wise parents whose love still carries me to this day. And I am grateful. I just hope that I can give as much to my own son.