A Mother's Day Lesson

By JJ Simon
Published on May 14th, 2013

It’s always interesting to learn something new about someone we are very close to. The experiences and relationships people have affect, in small ways, all of their other relationships.
My Mom has lived a wide and rich life. She met and interacted with famous people from her generation.
I thought I had heard all Mom’s stories; at least the important ones. I was wrong.
Last week, I received this in an email. It’s about Richie Havens, musician, singer-songwriter, activist, etc., and, as it turns out, a friend of my mom’s.
From my Mom:
As we age, pieces of our life fall away. This is a piece of mine. I knew him in NY in the 1960’s. He was a breathtaking musician. I read the article about his death and learned things about him I had never known.
She attached an article about his life.
You all may know Richie Havens because he was the opening act at Woodstock. That is how I knew of him, and he was an awe-inspiring musician.
I was interested to know more so I pressed my Mom about her story. Here's what I got in return.
From Mom:
As you well know, the 60’s were an extremely interesting time and I was in NYC, an extremely interesting place, in which to experience it. I spent most of my time, when I was not physically at Sarah Lawrence College, in Greenwich Village (which is where I lived after I graduated) congregating with friends and musicians. At times, I played guitar and sang at some of the lower end joints; definitely the bottom of the music scene food chain. However, I met a lot of people, some of whom became famous and most of whom, like me, did not. Richie Havens was a breed apart. He was very gifted, of course, but he was a lot more than that. He was not arrogant, he was smart, he was compassionate. He played the large venues such as The Avalon, but also the small ones like The Dug Out, always superbly and with devotion to his craft, and with energy and insight. None of the recordings I’ve ever heard of his music come close to the sound and timber of what he sounded like live. Some musicians project technical skill, some project their soul. He did both. He had amazing hands. I think of them as giant paws. And I knew him both without and with teeth. He didn’t like the false ones and would keep removing them. I do not remember ever talking about family or such during those days, we discussed what was happening on the street and in the world at large and the in music world. Anna (My mother’s longest friend), reminded me yesterday that we went to listen to Richie one night at a downtown club for which Woody Allen in a plaid suit was the opening act. Lots of memories have been lost to time and drugs. This is the best I can do.
So what does this matter? My Mom knew Richie Havens. The relationship with a famous musician isn't the point for me. It’s really about knowing my loved ones. I find as I get older I am more interested in people’s stories. I know my Mom has a colorful past and the details of it are a huge factor in the man I am today. Her stories are important to me, even if I don't know what they are.
In this society where economics rules the day and the transactional relationship has become the norm, I think it’s important to learn these little details about our loved ones especially our parents, grandparents, mentors, and coaches.
In learning a piece of another’s history, I might not gain anything materially. I will gain a greater insight into my life by understanding theirs a little better. The great story of their life in turn makes mine a little richer. These experiences are precious and should not be lost.
"When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no.
You're going to get it anyway." -- Erma Bombeck

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: JJ Simon

JJ Simon has studied the Martial Arts for over a decade. In October of 2010, he tested for, and earned, his black belt at TheMALC's annual Residential . Mr. Simon has studied meditation since 1990 and has completed a number of Meditation retreats from 3 to 30 days under such noted teachers as Lama Surya Das, and in the Shambhala training tradition created by Chogyam

JJ has acted as a meditation coach for friends and martial arts associates since 1992. Mr. Simon is a tattoo artist of some renown with some 20 years of experience in the field. He owns Explosive Tattoo South in Salisbury, MD. JJ is also a painter, knife maker, and the Artistic Director for The Martial Arts Learning Community, Inc.

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