What are you doing for the Fourth?
I’m going to be singing some Stephen Foster. Maybe that’s not such a typical July Fourth activity. Lots of other composers come to mind for a Fourth of July picnic, starting with Sousa and going on to Springsteen. But this picnic is a memorial for the mother of my friend Fred.
What a wonderful woman she was. Warm, smart, funny, kind and thoughtful, she single-handedly raised her son, an only child, and he is one of the most outrageously generous people I know. She died at the age of 89, spending the last few years at an assisted-living home, but she often visited Fred’s property up on the Hudson and her ashes are going to be sprinkled there beneath her favorite tree, a towering pine.
She was aphasic those last few years because of a stroke but she managed to communicate quite well in her jumbled vocabulary, including this wish to become part of the land that her son has nurtured and loved. I remember visiting her at the assisted living home and on one visit, when speech became a struggle, we sat together and sang, old sweet memorable tunes that the stroke never erased.
That’s why I’ll sing one of them at the pine tree, her favorite song, “Beautiful Dreamer” by Stephen Foster. Like the best of souls, she was a beautiful dreamer and when I look at her son and all the kindnesses he has done and the vision he’s spread for a greener world, I think of how dreams grow when they’re passed down through the generations. She was always so proud of him, but I give her a lot of the credit. The dreams and the love had to come from somewhere.
It will be a glorious Fourth.
Rick Hamlin is the executive editor at GUIDEPOSTS.