Interview Between Raine and Her Mother

By Raine Porter

Translated Transcript

Raine: Alright, what is your name?

Helen: My name is Helen Porter 

Raine: (Laughs), Okay so the questions I’m going to ask you are if you sing songs like lullabies

Helen: Yes yes, I do sing lullabies to my kids when they were younger

Raine: Okay, how did you learn it though, or like how did they come to you (the lullabies) 

Helen: Uhh, I would see them in lullaby books, like the small books (The small children’s books), so what I would do is I would see the lullaby songs and I would sing them on my own, and then I would sing them to my children. I just needed to keep reading and then sing it to them when they ask me “can you sing for us?”

Raine: Aww, so then when you were younger, did grandmother sing lullabies to you? Or no, you don’t remember

Helen: No, I don’t remember it anymore because of course, no no, I don’t think your grandmother sung lullabies to me when I was young cause your grandmother was so busy

Raine: mhm

Helen: So we grew up (without them), but we were together

Raine: Ummm, so then, I guess like when you were learning the songs from, like you said, the books, did you have a hard time learning the lullabies cause they were in English?

Helen: Yes, I did have a hard time because of course at the time I didn’t really know how to speak English

Raine: mhm

Helen: But because I was here in the United States, I needed to learn so that I can talk to my kids and communicate with them, so I learned for them, but I knew how to read English due to what I learned in school, but to translate the words into a conversation it wasn’t the same. But today I don’t have that issue, I can hold a conversation in English cause I’ve been here (the United States) for the longest of time.

Raine: Okay okay, so what kind of lullabies would you sing to us (her kids)?

Helen: I would always sing from what I remember (sings) “Twinkle Twinkle little star how I wonder what you are” with the action!

Raine: Well, what do you mean by action?

Helen: I need to, you know move my hands with the motion of twinkle of the stars, like how the stars twinkle

Helen: (sings with hand motion) “Up above the world so high” You know, I need to move my hands like high up

Raine: So that we can see the motions?

Helen: Yea so that you can see, when you were little, and then you guys really liked it and you were excited and would say “mama can you sing for us” and then yea that’s what I would do

Raine: About our older sisters, did you use to sing to them when they were little? 

Helen: Uh, I didn’t really ever sing them lullabies because during that time I started working abroad outside of the Philippines so I was always going back and forth (from the Philipines) so I wasn’t always with them because I needed to work so that I could take care of them, so that they could go to school and could buy the items that they needed. I needed to be able to provide that to them because we were poor during that time, yea. So I never really got to experience that with them, so when I had you and Ariel [my younger sister] and we were together because I didn’t travel and just stayed in one spot, I just focused on you guys (Ariel and I). But at that time we were also with your older sisters Michelle and Jenny. Back then in the Philippines, life there is so hard, so because I was a single mom I needed to take care of my family.

Raine: So then, when you would sing to us was it in Tagalog or English? 

Helen: English! I would just sing to you and your younger sister in English 

Raine: You didn’t sing to us in any Tagalog songs

Helen: No, there were none

Raine: So outside of when we were little, did you ever sing like let’s say when you were just doing whatever around the house?

Helen: Yes! I really like to sing in general! I love to sing! Before your dad bought me like CD’s like Mariah Carey

Raine: Oh my god, that’s why he (my dad) doesn’t like Mariah Carey because he said that you played that CD so much that it broke. (Both Laugh), did the CD really break? 

Helen: I don’t know but to what I know I just really liked the CDs and really liked to sing. I just love to sing. 

Helen: I think it’s about the music to make you happy! It’s about the music to make you relax 

Raine: I guess like, what is your favorite category? Or like genre? You know like the genres like you have your 80’s, 90’s

Helen: Oh yea, I like the 80’s 90’s

Raine: Whatever was one KYXY? 

Helen: Yes, KYXY 96.5, that’s me, I love it

Raine: Whenever you would sing, how would I say? Did you have like a feeling?

Helen: Oh yes, I know, it’s like I’m doing a concert (tries to harmonize) 

(both Laugh) 

Helen: Its really like i’m doing a concert cause I can really feel the song I am singing, yes yes

Raine: Like your are really dancing (to the music)? 

Helen: Yes yes, lol you know!!! I do that, we sing, we’re dancing, yes yes, I really love it 

Raine: Okay so the question is have you ever hummed a random tune to your child to soothe them? What was it like? How did that come about? And do you think you were compelled to do so?

Raine: Like you have a song stuck in your head and you go (begins to hum), like do you do that? 

Raine: So like when you are doing something like lets say washing dishes

Helen: (Begins to hum Mariah Carey)

Raine: Yes! Like that. So like do you do that to us back then? 

Helen: Yea! I use to do that to you guys before, the only thing was sometimes it was only humming of songs or tunes that I would just make up (begins to hum), even when you guys were babies, I remember when you guys were babies (begins to hum) 

Helen: most of the time, when you guys were little I just remember, I think you were 5 years old and Ariel is 3 years old, you guys would always watch Wiggles, and when I would turn it on the TV you would start dancing and you even knew all the characters of the Wiggles. And Then after that you’d watch Arthur and then you’d watch Blue’s Clues and Magenta. Yea the cartoons a long time ago that had songs, and you guys would dance to them.

Raine: When we would dance to the songs from the shows and sing to them, would you sing with us (me and my younger sister)? 

Helen: Yes! I would sing and then I would go (Begins to dance in her chair) and you guys would dance like that and I would dance with you guys. Yea I just do that so that it was a fun time or fun moment. It looks like it’s happy, so it was like you had a companion even if you guys were dancing in front of the TV. Cause it was just you and her, Ariel [ she means just me and my younger sister] so I needed to make it seem like there was a lot of us to make it a really fun moment. Its happy! 

Raine: Okay, so I guess, you said that you read the lullabies from books but at any point in time, how should I should say, like did you think it was necessary that you needed to sing these lullabies to us? Or did you do it because you just wanted to? 

Helen: I wanted to do it! So that I could teach the songs to you guys and I think when I sing you guys lullaby songs it would make you fall asleep, like they make you calm and sleepy. Like songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star [Sings the song while saying it] and then me singing it in a soft and slow manner, calm, ( would help foster that).

Raine: Did Daddy ever sing lullabies to us? 

Helen: Yes, yea! Your dad was really on top of it and would sing to your guys most of the time. Of course he knew a lot more lullaby songs than me. He didn’t need to read about them because he grew up with them. So when you guys were young and you all were laying down, your dad would keep singing you guys lullabies. 

Raine: Umm, I guess so, one of the questions here is “what was it like singing to your first child?” and you said you didn’t sing to our older sisters Jennifer and Michelle, but how about me? What was it like (to sing to me)? 

Helen: It was nice because the act of laying down with your child together and singing the lullaby song (to you). It is nice, I loved it!

Raine: Would you fall asleep also when you would sing the lullabies to me? 

Helen: Yea! I would fall asleep too! Because when I would sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Singing the title of the song) and then I would see you already asleep, I would fall asleep too! Yea, it is so nice to sing to a little child and then they learn the song you sing too. 

Helen: One time I was singing, and then you just started singing with me as I was trying to put you to sleep. 

[Both laugh]

Helen: You started singing with me because of how I would always sing lullabies to you, and then [imitates how I would sing Twinkle twinkle little star when I was younger, with hand motions making the little stars “twinkle”], and you would be moving your hands like the stars, at that point you would always copy me.

Raine: Okay for my older sisters Jenny and Michelle, if you were able to, I mean I know that you said that you didnt sing any lullabies to them when they were growing up, but if you could go back in time, would you have wanted to have that experience with them? 

Helen: Yes! I would love to have that experience I had with you and your younger sister, for your older sisters, but because during that time in the Philippines I was the only one taking care of them where I was always going to work, so I wouldn’t have the time to do to them as I did to you and your younger sister. Because I was always working they would sometimes stay with your grandmother 

Raine: Do you think that grandma ever sang them lullabies? 

Helen: Well you know how your grandmother is, she is always just singing so probably yea. If you ask me if I wish I had the chance to sing them lullabies back then, yes I wish that I gave them the same experience with lullabies that you and your younger sister had.

Raine: Do you think it is important for a child’s development? 

Helen: Yea! 

Raine: Why? 

Helen: Because like for you and Ariel you guys became so close to me. But during the time of your older sisters back then, I wasn’t always with them (due to working abroad). Like I said if I had the chance to give them that experience I would! But due to how hard life was back then I needed to work so that I could take care of them. So I couldn’t give them the experience I wish they had but despite that I would interact with them the way that I would interact with you and your younger sister

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Helen- “Hey Raine! When are you going to interview me?” 

Raine- “Anytime is okay with me ma, you just let me know when you are free and we will do the recording then.” 

Helen- “Okay I will head over there later today, see you then!” 

I had this initial idea that my interview about lullabies with my mom would go in a specific direction because I had felt that I already knew all the details of her life. I figured that there was nothing she could tell me that I already didn’t know. However, due to that assumption I could feel myself trying to stir the interview one way; I wanted to go right on the river bend but the interview ended up going left and through many estuaries that evolved the interview into sort of a conversation between two people. 

[Getting Started]

My mother had just arrived at my place after getting off from work. I wasn’t particularly doing anything as it was a holiday as well as the weekend (July 4th) and I did not have any plans set out for the day. Additionally, the weather outside was sweltering to where it felt like the inside of my humble abode was an oven, and my family and I were the rotisserie chickens within it.

We sat at the dinner table diagonally from one another. To make ourselves more comfortable we were both wearing tank tops as a way to avoid feeling like we were being constricted by the heat. 

As I had begun setting up my phone to record the interview I had a sort of feeling lingering in the back of my mind. I wouldn’t say it was panic but more so uncertainty. At that moment I wished I could have been able to predict my mother’s answers to the questions I was going to ask her. This way, I could structure the questions so that the answers built on each other and therefore minimized tangents. Furthermore, I expected that her responses would differ from someone who had been living in the US their entire lives. 

Now, I am not at all embarrassed by my family. I guess I would say that my fear lies in standing out. Uniqueness is good since it creates individuality amongst people, but I have always had a small desire to be similar to my peers, as to avoid cultural questions. As a result of my determination to steer the conversation in a predictable direction, I essentially walled myself off from learning anything new about my mother.

[The interview]

We did an audio check on my phone to make sure the sound was good! We were ready to go! Right before I began recording and asking my mother questions, I asked her if she wanted to interview in English or Tagalog. Initially, she took a pause to think about it for a second and then proceeded to tell me “I can speak to you in English”,  but I was quick to respond “No ma, it feels natural to speak to you in Tagalog because that’s how I grew up”, despite initially giving her the option to choose. However, she agreed and expressed that it would be easier to just interview in Tagalog.

Looking back at that little exchange now, there I was worried about standing out but then proceeding to take a “different route” 

As I began to ask my mother questions pertaining to her experience with lullabies, a cloud of awkwardness was looming around us. Of course that feeling of awkwardness was to be expected because this was a new experience for both of us. I don’t ever recall asking my mom questions about lullabies or anything related to that manner. Additionally, the fact that the conversation was also being recorded added to that feeling of unease. In the first couple of minutes of the interview it can be heard in my mother’s voice with how formal she was trying to be and her attempt to enunciate all her words. 

I was also entangled by this awkwardness. I kept fidgeting in my chair and looking down towards my phone seeing how much of the interview was already recorded. In this moment 2 minutes felt like 2 hours. I kept thinking to myself “how exactly am I going to get 30 minutes of voice recording for this interview?” I also felt myself mirroring my mother’s emphasis on enunciation and formality. Furthermore, I was anxious about the noises happening around us. My younger sister could be heard playing video games in the background despite the TV volume being turned down pretty low. The focus of my attention seemed to bounce from one thing to another.

However, my mom captured my attention once she began sharing how she started teaching herself the English lullabies from children’s books in order to sing them to me and my younger sister. This was a fact that I was unaware of and I was enthralled by her determination. In this regard, I would say this was the point where I let the metaphorical wall I created crumble because I wanted to learn more; why did my mom have such a natural drive, what drove her to do what she did?  My mother had peaked my interest and I began asking questions to hopefully fish out what her motivation was.

I could have just outright asked her why she had this deep determination to learn lullabies in English. Why didn’t I?  I just feel like I tiptoed around the question I really wanted to ask, probably to make the recording of the interview reach the 30-minute mark (prior to editing)…

As I proceeded with this line of questioning I could also see my mom become more comfortable and animated with her motions and expressions. She would talk with her hands more to add emphasis to what she was saying. When talking about how she interacted with my younger sister and I as toddlers, she seemed to be excited with how the sound of her voice became more jovial and elevated. The laughter at this point was genuine, rather than an attempt to ease an awkward situation.  

I wanted to keep this momentum going because I felt like I was getting to the root of her driving force. Since she seemed to enjoy talking about how she interacted with me and my siblings, I thought I would ask my mother about the upbringing of my older sisters. 

I noticed a slight change in her facial expressions, she wasn’t smiling as widely as she was a few seconds ago, but still seemed content. In a way, it was almost like I had asked her to recall a memory she wasn’t keen on remembering. From what I could infer, my mom’s perspective on lullabies was a way to communicate and connect with her children. She, however, expressed her disappointment with not being able to share the experience of lullabies with my older sisters.

Whenever my mother spoke about the opportunities she missed when my older sisters were toddlers, I could sense her sadness. There almost seemed to be a pit in my chest as my mother’s emotions were affecting mine. In an attempt to ease this feeling, I would follow up with a question I figured she would have a positive memory about.

The lullaby experience my mom had with my older sisters versus with me and my younger sister seemed to be polar opposites of one another. And throughout the interview there was this constant ebb and flow of emotions. In a way, I felt like I was walking down memory lane and we were both remembering the time when my siblings and I were younger.