Monday, November 9, 2015

The story behind Robert Munsch's 'Love You Forever'

By Louise Kinross

I made up my own melody.

When my son was born with "unusual features" and a suspected genetic condition, Robert Munsch's Love You Forever popped into my mind.

Singing the lines in the hopes my baby would "feel it" was a way to defy and deflect the doctor who treated him like a piece of broken machinery and trotted out a litany of things that were "wrong" with him at an hour old.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

In Munsch's book, a mother creeps into her son's room after he's asleep and picks him up and sings this song as she rocks him.

She sings it during the "terrible twos," when he flushes her watch down the toilet; she sings it when he's nine and tracks muddied shoes and bad words through the kitchen; she sings it when his loud teen music makes her feel like she lives in a zoo.

Her grown son moves away from home, and even then, she drives to his house at night, a ladder strapped to the top of her car, so she can climb in the window and sing to, and rock, him again.

Eventually, the mother gets old and calls the son to come see her. When he comes over she begins to sing the song, but she can't finish it. She's too sick. So he picks her up and rocks her in the rocking chair while he sings it.

The book captures the beauty and fragility of life and the undying bond between child and parent.

Many years ago Robert Munsch came to Holland Bloorview to interview a client of ours who was the inspiration for his book Zoom, about a girl and her power wheelchair. I got to meet him.

What I didn't know then was that Mr. Munsch had himself experienced loss as a father.

Today I read an article that linked to this description of the book written by Mr. Munsch on his website:

"Love You Forever started as a song.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be. 

I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing.

For a long time it was just a song but one day, while telling stories at a big theatre at the University of Guelph, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a story around the song.

Out popped Love You Forever, pretty much the way it is in the book."

I was always drawn to Munsch's book, but assumed that the author knew only the typical parenting experience, the normal life cycle in the book where the child grows up healthy and happy through all of the regular stages and ages.

Reading that the narrative in fact emerged from Munsch's love and loss of two children, who were born "still" in 1979 and 1980, is haunting. It was a love letter to the children he never knew.

Munsch sings his version of the song on his website (quite different from the one I sang to my children), and encourages readers to send in the melodies they created.

"Everybody makes up their own song for this book... If you send me your version, either as a tape or an audio file or a MR3 file, I will try to put it up in the LOVE YOU page. If lots of people send me their versions, I will not be able to put them all up, but I would like to hear them even if I can’t put them on the site.

The way I sing it in the story is just MY version. You are supposed to make up your own."


Okay Louise you know I am a cry baby and had tears in my eyes while reading this blog - thanks for posting. it is how I feel about my daughter.

I had this book as a kid, but didn't know the back-story until I was a grown-up. When my own daughter was in the hospital I recited it verbatim to her on more than one occasion.