Bad Memories

From time to time I get sudden flashbacks to some bad or embarrassing scene from the past. They make me shudder or exhale or sometimes even mutter something to try and make the thought pass on. They are nothing big and I don’t know why they plague me decades later but they live on in my body somewhere. One of the most frequent visitors is from college days – freshmen orientation, to be exact. It was the only time in my life I asked a total, absolute stranger for a date. We’d hardly had 20 words together before I asked her out. She declined, of course, but it was the gaping moment of silence that preceded that jabs me in the gut every now and then. I doubt she was stunned. I think she just wanted to see me squirm for a bit before she replied – give me time to regret. It worked.

But the memory that caught me off guard this morning is one that I’d forgotten for many years. It was third grade. Spring. The teacher told us to write a poem about Spring. I wrote the first thing that came to mind which was a song we’d learned to sing in second grade. It went like this:

“Robin, Robin, singing in the rain
Robin, Robin, Spring has come again”

and finished with something like:

“Pretty little Robin in the apple tree”

The teacher liked it so much (perhaps it had that familiar ring to it) that she sent it off to a children’s literary magazine who published it. I knew none of this until it was printed. My parents had signed a waiver to allow the publication, I might have even received some money, I don’t remember. I just remember being horrified that I would be found out – I had stolen this poem from our second grade sing-a-long book. I seem to remember trying to tell my mom that I hadn’t written this poem but I don’t remember her reaction or if she even understood what I was telling her.

I guess this all came back because it’s Spring – the robins are here. I can’t remember the third line of the song (and there were other verses but I only used the first one). If you know the rest or where it comes from let me know. The tune (on cello) is below if you want to listen.


Thanks to the wonders of the internet – a total stranger found this post and sent me the song:

“Robin, Robin, singing in the rain,
  Robin, Robin, Spring has come again,
  Robin, Robin, sing a song for me,
  Pretty little robin in the apple tree.”
(sung at P.S.193, Brooklyn NY in the 1940’s) 

Many thanks to Linda Kelso!


And Sally writes:

“I have a good memory of my brother, now 59, singing the song about the robin. It has been in my head these past few days and I Googled what I remembered of the lyrics and came upon your post. My sister and I remember it as happy rather than pretty robin! Shared these memories and your post with a friend named Robin whose birthday is today. Thanks for sharing your memory of this song.

I am from Indiana. I think my grandmother, who was from Northern Indiana, or my aunt, who was a first grade teacher, also in Northern Indiana, taught my brother the song. He is now almost 59, so would have learned it in the late ’50s or early ’60s. He also remembers as happy/rather than pretty robin, and singing in the tree/rather than rain.”


And here’s the tune as I remember it: