This morning I woke up to some very sad news: that Pete Seeger had died.
And I know it’s partly the fading fever at work — buh-bye H1N1, please do let the door hit you in the arse on the way out — and the fact that I’ve eaten nothing but popsicles for days, but I’ve been crying, actually crying about this on-and-off today. Both my parents are still alive so I haven’t been hit squarely with grief, but other family members have died without so soppy a send-off.
I think the reaction — as only one other person on the planet, my sister, will understand — is largely a result of the fact that one of my still-living parents, my dad, used to sing us Pete Seeger songs at bedtime, when we were small. And not-so-small. We were cute and willing to fake neediness if it got us another story or song (Note to self: be on the look-out for similar tactics coming from local anti-sleep activists).
I didn’t realize until I was much older how message-laden those songs were, how firm a foundation we were being given in the principles of equity and action, under the guise of a lullaby.
More recently, I saw a documentary about Pete Seeger on PBS. They interviewed a person who spoke about his home; apparently he had a house on the Hudson River in an area that had since been declared a state park, so there was no further development. The interviewee said that he used to visit his parents, who lived across the river, and he’d look out from their place, and he could see if the lights were on, and he’d “know if Mr. Seeger was home.”
Today, the lights will be dark, but they glow just as bright across all rivers, now that Mr. Seeger is home.
And tonight, if you have the exquisite opportunity to do so, sing to your babies. They will remember it all their lives.