Thursday, September 17, 2009

That land called Honah Lee

The universe has a funny way of circling back on itself sometimes. The news of Mary Travers death yesterday came as both a shock and a reminder. A shock because I didn’t know she was sick. I’m not sure many people did. A reminder because Peter, Paul & Mary was a large part of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of my father singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” to me as I drifted off into sleep. Mary came from a time when folk singers wore button-down shirts and tweed jackets, but spoke about revolution and a better world. They sang about changing the world with nothing more than a hammer and the will to swing it against what needed fixing. Mary’s voice was big and urgent, filled with both fire and ache. Throughout her life she used it to both lift it in song and against injustice.

My parents had all their albums and my father in particular, with his Martin guitar and own tweed jackets, would often sing their songs to my sister and me at bedtime. He died five years ago this summer. In a few days, my sister is expecting a baby – my first nephew and my mother’s first grandchild. While my dad won’t be there to sing “Puff” when he arrives, I know that Mary and the group’s music will still be there to serenade him about strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Yesterday, when I came home I also found the paperwork for my father’s scholarship fund in the mail. My family has worked for five years to set up the fund, a modest but hopefully helpful endowment. Perhaps it will give that student just enough to find his or her own hammer. And, as I sign it and put it in the mail today, perhaps I’ve found mine as well.

If I Had a Hammer


Puff the Magic Dragon

Thanks, Mary. May you frolic in the autumn mist forever.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

the passing of another icon.
touching little mini-tribute to your dad, too. don't think we didn't notice. :o)

j said...

oh man, now i'm going to be singing about hammers all day long. dammit.

Holly said...

Having just lost my father, I appreciated your tribute to your Dad. My Dad always liked Lemon Tree by PP&M. We all liked to see along on car trips.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

My mother used to play Puff the Magic Dragon all the time on the piano and like idiots, or just children, we'd gather around and sing.

scribegrrrl said...

A lovely tribute. Thank you.

Sara said...

I appropriated all of my mother's PPM albums when I was a kid, and when I left for college, oops,they went w/ me. All these years later, I still have a turntable, so I dug them out and am listening to them this afternoon. So sweet. And surely the subliminal bedrock of my politics. Godspeed, Mary.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I never realized how attractive she was.

And oh yeah, the music is good, too. :-D

Joan said...

Thank you for the tribute to your Dad and to Mary.

I learned she had leukemia several years ago, and hoped she would beat it.

I've loved their music for decades. Two interesting coincidences: my mother-in-law went to high school in Michigan with Noel Paul Stookey and my then friend, now husband and I swapped virginities to a PP&M album in college.

May she find peace and may their eternal voices lead the rest of us to world peace.

Joan Rooch

Norma Desmond said...

Ms. Snarker, that was incredible touching.

SunLFrog said...

Very well put, I think many of us have wonderful childhood memories of our parents love for PP&M. I know I spent many a car ride with my family singing along to them.

I'm adding them to a lesson or two in the next couple of weeks, I figure a little Puff can't do the South Koreans any harm.

Anonymous said...

Sweet post, dorothy.

Mary was always so beautiful and heartfelt. I love her face and how she looked when she sang. She was before my time, but I loved watching her on the old clips.

Tapwater Jackson said...

Just beautiful, Snark. Your prose is pure. This Dad is still playing Puff at night to his youngest. I run it through a compressor, distortion box, and flanger in deathmetal style. But, really, it's heartfelt.

bisquiat said...

Time to learn a new song on the guitar tonight.
Beautiful writing, as always.

jazzluv said...

You are such a sensitive, loving woman. Sometimes you're raunchy and even rude (giggle), but when it all boils down you are a sweetheart with a heart - heart of justice too I reckon. So glad about your Dad's fund - that's really special. Love that little boy it's a special bond with your sibs kids. Take care darling - if I were 20 years younger, I'd come looking for you.
Susan (from the Land of OZ)

LizW said...

I missed the news about Mary until I saw it in your poignant post. Like you, I didn't realize she was ill. What a wonderful tribute to your dad - both your story and the scholarship. What an inspiration he must have been.

Anonymous said...

lives by the sea~

is it possible? dragon lives..
anyway like the song, though.

just reminds me that,
my parent is not only one
who singing and playing guitar
for the song.

so, general parenthood thing.
thank for the post.
anyway, it'shock to know you shocked.

sj said...

Thank You
sh

Bekki said...

Wow, it's touching to hear how many other kids grew up singing PP&M together in car trips with their folks. My dad would sing a wonderful, quiet, horribly off-key Blowin' In the Wind to me as a tiny kid and in my very young and innocent ways, I'd try and answer all the questions as he sang them. My Mom would then sing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? to me and then we'd fall asleep to the LP of In the Wind playing on the record player in the hall. The best thing is that now that I have a niece and nephew, I get to hold them as they go to sleep and sing Freight Train (my nephew's favorite and the first song he ever taught himself as a toddler) and Puff (my niece's preferred choice). It's really powerful to know that in these quiet ways PP&M will keep living on. You'll be blown away, Dorothy, when you finally get to sing with the tiny voice of your own niece or nephew.

Amy said...

I love their music. I offer my prayers and condolences to the family.

hdbrgt said...

Thanks for the lovely post about Mary and the way PP&M has touched your family. I was fortunate enough to hear them as a child (A Soulin' was the first song my dad taught me on the guitar) and also as an adult when they came to Chautauqua Institution in western NY every third summer or so. Of all the celebrity deaths this year, Mary's has touch me the deepest; partly in her own right and partly because of what she has meant to me individually and to my family.

Kathryn said...

Scholarships are wonderful tributes, looking back and looking ahead. Big online hugs.