I ran across this email I wrote one year ago at the time of Mary Travers' death, and wanted to share it. Some of you wrote me back with similar stories about another time and place, or the importance of music in shaping who we are. I have appreciated them. It is important to pause and remember people and places in our lives who helped lay a 'personality stone' along the path to the person we are today:
Part of my childhood died today. I always thought I was born too late; now I know it.
For as long as I can remember I have loved Peter, Paul and Mary. Their music let me be the wind-blown, hippie chick I felt in my spirit, but never quite seemed to morph into on my own. I never frequented a Greenwich Village nightclub, but sang my heart out on the back porch of my Monticello home in the late 60's and early 70's. Strumming or clumsily picking my way on a 1964 Gibson tenor guitar, I could become the folk singer of my dreams. Safely in the company of my daddy - who knew all the words and had the same warmth in his voice of Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow combined - we played and sang. He taught me, "Where have all the flowers gone?", "Blowin' in the Wind", "500 Miles", "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", The New Christy Minstrels' songs, and so many more. That music took me to another place I loved to visit.....often.
The chords were easy - no more than 6 sometimes. It was never about the technical wizardry of their music. They presented a purity of message and sound that I can't hear anymore amid the voice-altering, computer-assisted recordings today. Memories of those Mississippi nights flooded my mind when I saw the news about her death. They shaped a way of hearing those simple harmonies that even today I love and never grow tired of replaying. As a generation, we outgrew Barbies and G.I. Joe, and the Mattel Thingmaker, but I'll never outgrow Peter, Paul and Mary.
When Bennett was four, he took me to preschool for show 'n tell. I sang Puff the Magic Dragon for his class, then he played a Billy Joel song on his red plastic electric guitar. Now, I can neither play nor sing; use it or lose it, they say. Or maybe I never could. Ah, but on those Mississippi nights on the back porch, I was a little bit of Mary Travers!
Time moves on. And it took part of me with it tonight.
One year later, and I still remember fondly these impressions. Today I am reminded to acknowledge the past, but not to dwell there. Pause to remember, then determine to move on, pressing on to the high calling of the needs of this day. I have the best of intentions, but I am a sentimental soul and sometimes linger longer with tender memories of the past, delighting in them. I suspect you do too. And then I remember with a smile:
Thank you, Lord, that you are the God of our yesterday, today, and tomorrow. All of our hopes and heart's desires are still 'blowin' in the wind' until we find our contentment in You. Thank you for the gift of memories which no one can take away from us. Amen
- The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
Post script: Press release for the October 2010 release of The Night Before Christmas, the classic by Clement C. Moore, includes music by Peter, Paul and Mary for yet another generation of little ones. http://www.peterpaulandmary.com/events/f-events.htm