My mom took me and my sister to see him perform with Arlo Guthrie when I was nine years old. Mom taught herself to play guitar when she was sixteen and was still playing four years later when she had me. We had dance parties in the living room where mom would serenade us with "Goodnight Irene" before bedtime. I really did believe that she was conjuring magical fairies that would allow me to see her even while I was asleep. When I finally saw Pete Seeger live, it was like meeting an old friend.
I realize now I kind of took Pete Seeger's presence in my life for granted -the background music of play dates and backyard picnics and the protest rallies mom would take us to on weekends. But sitting in my car this morning singing along softly with the radio and crying at a red light, I was hit with the kind of realization about your parents that really only comes with a few decades of perspective: my mom was really cool. I mean I've always known that, but I didn't always understand it.
I realized much of Pete Seeger in our lives was a reflection of the way my mom lived hers: believing in the promise of something better, where tolerance, love, empathy (and yes, music) rule the day. And that was how she raised us, fiercely, unapologetically believing that the world could be a better place, that we had the power to make it a better place if we just paid attention and weren't afraid to speak up. What an amazing gift to give your child, the belief that from day one such a world is possible.
Now that I am an aunt, I spend a lot more time thinking about how I want to parent - whether it's my own someday child or my nieces and nephews (those related to me by blood or by choice), and I can't help but think I was given something precious and wonderful -- a blueprint for what it looks like to help raise another human being to be conscious, awake and unafraid to get up every morning ready to love the world all over again. So here's to you Pete Seeger and here's to you mom: thank you.