Monday, January 23, 2012

from california to the new york island

Jonatha Brooke debuted a new single at last week's show- a new rendition of the classic, This Land isYour Land. As Woody Guthrie and America's most famous folk song... it was a perfect way to honor him. Her interpretation is gorgeous, fresh and with an entirely new twist... you can find it on on itunes right here.

By the first verse the tears were streaming down my cheeks. My mother sang it to me constantly when I was little.. it was our song (along with the rest of the country). She and I had left Long Island when I was a baby and moved out to San Francisco.

From California to the New York Island...

For years, I had thought my mom made up that line just for us. She always sang folk songs to me... most of which were ones that she learned at summer camp in the 50's with none other than Pete Seeger! She went to Camp Woodland in the Catskill Mountains, a very special place steeped in folk music and the beginnings of social change. It's a huge part of her story, but I didn't think I'd be writing much about it when I began this post. My search for links lead me down a wonderful path. In order to link up Camp Woodland, I discovered their fairly new website... the sidebar had a section with photos. Now wouldn't you want to see if there were any old and long forgotten photos of your mother as a child... and teen? I certainly did! Within seconds, I was staring at a girl that was about the same age as my son... and most certainly her!
Since my mother was at work, I called her little sister- my aunt, Amy. "Is this mom!?" She was practically speechless... not only was it definitely my mom, but as she looked at the other pictures, she said "Did you know I went there too? I went to Camp Woodland when I was little! I recognize these people and the cabins and....". Can you imagine being able to go back in time 50 years? That's just how she felt... suddenly transported.

With this new information, I went scouring through the archives like a madwoman looking for a tiny Amy... and I struck gold! I'm getting goosebumps as I write this... here is my mother teaching her little sister how to float on her back.
At the Creek.Louise Kurshan and Nancy Howe
When I saved the picture to my computer to send to my aunt, I saw the imbedded title. The name of the girl standing in front (an old long forgotten camp friend) and my mother's name. The little mysterious floater... well, I knew just who that was! Unlike today, where we're all snapping pictures every second, this photo was taken at a time when folks savored their film and only took a few select shots.The sweet girl posing was aware of the lens focused on her, but my mother and her little sister never knew this photo existed until now, 50 years later. There is something extra poignant in their candidness, don't you think? What an amazing gift, to go back somewhere so dear, when you didn't think you could. And it all came from one song, This Land is Your Land, which I'm listening to right now, as I type. Thank you Jonatha.

p.s. I will write more about Camp Woodland some day soon- it was an extraordinary place at a very volatile time in American history.
p.p.s. I promise to return tomorrow with some craftiness, but I just had to share these photos with you first... I couldn't get them out of my head. And I knew you'd appreciate them, because that's just how you are!
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  1. It sounds like an amazing place to be as a child... and what lucky kids, because they must have had very amazing parents to have chosen that sort of summer camp.

    One of my favorite kids' CDs is the Smithsonian collection of folk songs. I'll have to go see if any of them were recorded there--I wouldn't be surprised.

  2. Wow, what an amazing treasure! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Wow! What an amazing find! The floaters are beautiful!

  4. Wow...that is a great story! Such a treasure to find those photos!

  5. That second photo is amazing! Such a sweet moment. What a fun discovery and a fascinating story.

  6. To find those photos... how very very wonderful! A peek into a world that previously just lived in memories. You must all be just brimming over!

  7. goodness, that's so amazing and wonderful, Maya! what a sweet discovery and time-travel!

  8. What a sweet discovery! I am a girl scout camp girl to my bones and those memories are especially dear to me. I sing my boys camp songs all the time. =)


  9. I love searching for new bits of family history, what an amazing find!
    ~ joey ~

  10. Well, isn't that the most amazing story! Lovely stumbling upon such intimate history. The photo at the creek is really capturing a special moment between your mom and aunt. Thanks for sharing something so wunderbar!

  11. I can only imagine the excitement you felt as you unfolded a part of your mom's story. It's like a treasure hunt and the song was the "X" on the map. Thanks for sharing, Maya.

  12. The picture was your mom! Oh my that is amazing. I LOVE the second picture too. I look forward to haring more about the amp history. Such a lovely trip this post was. xoxo

  13. That is so amazing! I totally agree photos were pretty rare back then. What a wonderful moment to capture!