Every Little Bit

Every little bit, added to what you got,

Will make you have a little bit more.

Save all your kisses, sleep baby.

Save all your hugs, sleep baby.

Put ‘em in a crocus sack

And shake ‘em all around.

Every little bit, added to what you got,

Will make you have a little bit more.

     "Every Little Bit" had a special meaning to McGill. "I learned ‘Every Little Bit’ from my other grandmother, Molly Alice Pope. Ma Pope had this trunk full of all sorts of good things… I remember the lace handkerchiefs, old zippers, and hair combs that had carved handles. There was no end to her tray of buttons of every size, shape and color. She saved memories too. I was named after Ma Pope. Her mother was born a slave in 1858 in Warrenton, North Carolina. Slave mothers often stored items that were dear and might be of use to them later. Little things like a button, pieces of string, and scraps of fabric were all protected treasures. Saving the memories of kisses and hugs was just as important."

     The basic melodies of the lullabies are provided in the book and sung on the compact disk as McGill learned and remembers them. Singers often added words and phrases that best suited life situations or the mood of the moment. Changes occurred in the music as the songs traveled from plantation to plantation. McGill stresses that "I learned them from my father and mother, my aunts, grandmothers, neighbors, and friends. They learned the songs from their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. The musical notes are based on my knowledge of the melodies, many of which have never been recorded."

     In addition to having its own written story, each lullaby also has a visual story. Using a quilt motif to show how objects were kept as memories of loved ones, the illustrations for each song have their own meanings, such as the ones McGill remembers from "Every Little Bit." These illustrations are collages made from objects and scrap pieces of odd shaped cloth in various patterns. The illustrations show how the slaves learned to cope with their situations and to be happy with their memories and mementoes, while the songs send out the message of struggle but with hope for the future. The objects used consist of beads, string, crochet, buttons, etc. 

     The final production is a beautiful work that is rich in family history. The act and message of the singing was "we will survive," with the illustrations providing a balance that is enjoyable to both the child and the adult reader. These objects and songs carry memories important to the slave family. Behind each object and each song is a touching story to be enjoyed over and over by everyone.

 

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HUAN 7 
November 2001