It was the first day of my summer vacation. I went downtown. To look for a job. No no no! That is the start of a Cheech and Chong skit from my childhood days. However, it was the first day of my summer vacation. I did go downtown but the purpose of my visit was the New Bedford Folk Festival. It was a family event with music, crafts, food, and a lot of good vibes. I grew up listening to folk music and still enjoy that it is the people’s music. While American History teaches what the rich and powerful are doing, folk music teaches us what the rest of the country is doing. It may be stereotyping but it seems the men lean towards broken romance, drinking, politics, and choosing sides during wartime while the women sing about ancestry, home, sisters, and mothers. All sing about love and unity and a sense of belonging. It was during one of the workshops that Anne Hills sang an adoption song that was about longing for a mother. I wept quietly in my seat. My father rubbed his face. We said nothing of this to each other. Kate Taylor sang of the loss of a friend and a red-tailed hawk that showed up everywhere. She felt the presence of her friend whenever the hawk presented itself. Garnet did a reading from his book about the difference between men and women folk singers and we all laughed in this strange fog of joy and somber. There is something about folk songs that expose the bittersweet elements of life. They talk of the joy of the return after the sorrow of being away. They talk of the wonders of life of a person that has passed away. They tell a story. They honor those who came before. They challenge us to do something for those who are to follow.
I returned home that evening feeling good after a day of song, reflection, fresh air, and time spent with my surviving parent. I sprawled out on the couch and reached for the remote. Being a bit of a tv geek I scrolled down the on demand documentary list. The Heart of a Dog. That sounds fairly light and breezy. NOT! The narrator, it turned out, was the wife of Lou Reed known for take a walk on the wild side. In the documentary she narrates the physical decline of her dog and her experience of losing her own mother. I was like oh boy I can’t do this, but I was so engrossed. I felt this woman was telling my story. It was like the Roberta Flack song when she sings, ” I was flushed with fever. Embarrassed by his song. I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.” How did she know this about me? Why was she telling my story to the world? Because it was our story. It was the shared story, the scripted narrative of a daughter who lost her mother. That is why songs, and poems, and memoirs, and fiction resonate with us. The chords are the same even if the melody is different.
The story teller said she went to a monk for guidance. You can FEEL sad without BEING sad. OMG. That is exactly what I am experiencing. I don’t want to give up the experience of feeling sad about my mother. I just don’t want to be sad. It’s been about 10 weeks since my mother passed away. I think about her all the time. Most of the time the memories make me smile. I want that moment back. I want to tell her about my day. I want to cook her a favorite meal. Sometimes I just cry and tell her I miss her. I tell her I feel sad but because of her I won’t be sad. I look for her presence in all things joyful, on the wings of the birds, and every wave that washes to shore.