28 February 2009

remiss, bothered, and bewildered

I have been remiss . I meant to tell this story when it happened 3 weeks ago or so. Every Saturday morning, I spend at least 2 hours in the cafe of the nearby Barnes & Noble, where I drink strong English Breakfast tea, eat a blueberry scone, write in my journal or write letters, and enjoy a period of relative anonymity where the only question I have to answer is "do you have a membership card?" (For the record, I do.)

This particular Saturday was no different, until I realized that the commotion over in the activities area was the setting-up for a guest appearance. The guest: Peter Yarrow, who would be singing and signing his illustrated book, Puff the Magic Dragon.

I'll never get close enough to see him, I thought. The thought made me sad. It needn't have, because it was false, but I didn't know that when I thought it. Bad habit, being sad before a concrete reason for sadness presents itself.

I finished my tea and walked over to the activities area, where a not-so-imposing-after-all crowd had gathered at its entrance. Most of the crowd out there seemed to be parents of the children who were inside, but some were aging hippies like me, awed at being so close to an icon of the peace movement, the folk movement, and every other movement that had made us who we are. He was singing traditional folk songs to the children, who knew the words to "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and learned the choruses to the newer songs Yarrow had written for them.

(I could see him clearly because I'm so short that no one minds if I stand in front. It's one of those paradoxes, and the only good thing about being short.)

In-between songs, Yarrow spoke about peace, about being kind and not being a bully, about how he loves singing - about everything that makes parents and aging hippies smile. Then, he decided to invite all of us outsiders into the activities room. "Plenty of seats!" he said. As there were.

Soon after, he sang the song everyone had been waiting for. After a verse or two, he stopped, and invited children to come up and sing with him. So many children scampered over that he and Mary (Not That Mary, alas! but a very nice Mary) had to settle them into a reasonable shape. Then he asked if any of them would like to sing a line or two of the song. Many of them did. He resumed singing, pausing to let a child sing "pirate ships would lower their flag" or "Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail." Yarrow's voice became huskier as each child sang into the microphone in Mary's hand, saying what joy it brought him to know he'd written a song that children loved almost 50 years later.

And then, a little girl, no more than 2, with shiny brown hair, shiny brown bangs, and a tiny acorn voice sang "frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honna Lee," in perfect tune, with perfect poise. Such moments are rare enough to still the air, even in a busy bookstore, at least long enough for everyone present to be grateful.

* * * * * *

I'll save "bothered" and "bewildered" for another day.
Namaste.

17 comments:

Stephanie said...

That's awesome! I would have loved to see that!

gadgetgrl said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Denise~ said...

::sigh::

I'm feeling a little dreamy now. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story.

Has it really been fifty years?

Bridget said...

What a wonderful thing to be able to see/hear close up!

(P.S. I'm glad you have a membership card. :-) )

Beverly said...

What a moving story. How lovely to happen upon such a pleasure.

amy said...

That song always made me sad when I was a kid, and it made my son cry, too. But he chose it as one of his songs to play at an upcoming recorder recital. I bet he'd be floored that the guy who wrote it is still around, playing it. Thanks for sharing the story.

adrienne said...

Namaste. What a lovely story. I met Paul Stookey when he played at a family friend's wedding ages ago. I think he lives near the Island.
:)

Aunt Kathy said...

Gosh I wish I had been there for that

BellaKarma said...

Awesome! I almost choked on my tea when I read who it was! I was born in '75, and my Mom is an aging hippie; therefore, this song is definitely on the soundtrack of my life. =)

So happy you were there for that, and shared the story with us! =)

Chelsey said...

That is an amazing experience!

And this:

(I could see him clearly because I'm so short that no one minds if I stand in front. It's one of those paradoxes, and the only good thing about being short.)


is SO true. I use it to my advantage at concerts.

kathy said...

Ah, Melanie, what a splendidly fortuitous encounter. What I would have given to have heard him sing that song from my childhood. I remember those nights watching the trio on Hootenanny, and like all kids in that age, "Puff" was my favorite song. I still remember the words lo these many years later. This post brought tears to my eyes. So much of my life and my politics are informed by the folk movement of those days and earlier. I hope you grabbed the book up and got him to sign it. I would have, and I would have told him it was for me!

teabird said...

Kathy, I decided not to buy the book because I wanted the children and parents to have that pleasure (and the line was long). I won't forget! I watched Hootenanny too, and I still remember the controversy when Pete Seeger was banned!

Chelsea, you do know what I'm talkin' about! ( Solidarity, short one! )

Jen said...

What a wonderful memory to have and to share! So many of us can link to good times around that song. On odd occasions, on long road trips, my husband and I have actually played, can you remember all the lyrics, with this song. :)

KnitNana said...

What a perfect moment, what a delightful memory to have now...
I'm so glad you could enjoy that!!!
((((Hugs))))

60GoingOn16 said...

Wonderful story - took me straight back to my golden (and idealistic) youth in the 1960s!

Nancy said...

ok now you made me cry...

great story, thanks for sharing!

Nicole said...

Wonderful story, but I can't sing this song. I always cry and get depressed. I am not looking forward to the day when my niece wants me to sing it with her.