Goodnight, Dear Pete: A Writer Wednesday Post

January 29th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays


St PeteSt Pete, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden

To listen to this post, please click here: Goodnight, Dear Pete

This week I planned to post about my experience with jury duty, but during our court-appointed lunch break yesterday, I saw the news. Pete’s gone? That’s like hearing the Big Dipper won’t be coming over the mountains any more.

Tributes to Pete Seeger are pouring forth all over the country now. Those of us who live in the Hudson Valley feel a special pang at his passing. Seemed like we were always catching sight of old Pete–at potlucks, jams or rallies, or just slinging his banjo case through Grand Central. He’d use his beloved voice and music and presence to help wherever he could: to unite communities, move people to action or simply share joy.

The year I swam the Hudson from Newburgh to Beacon, the first thing to greet my blurry eyes as I rose from the river was old Pete himself, by himself, picking up litter from the river’s edge. Helping wherever, however he could.

We were privileged to hear him locally last fall at the new Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon. He was giving their new venue a boost, warming the stage with Work o’ the Weavers, a tribute band, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Weavers’ first public performance. It was a grand night indeed, though I was frustrated trying to take a good picture of Pete. There was so much light pouring from that stage, I finally gave up.

But next morning, magically, in the shot above I saw the old image of a bodhisattva, a painting of an old saint with his symbol of deliverance. An icon, in more ways than one. I had to smile at the accidental truth of it.

Pete Seeger will always hold a special place in my heart for another reason, too. In the early 50’s a small boy received a 45 rpm record. To the consternation of his family, he played one side over and over and over again. You may have guessed that the song was “Goodnight, Irene,” and the boy grew up to be my husband.

Goodnight, Dear Pete, Goodnight Dear Pete, we’ll hear you in our dreams…

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  • mark r

    Beautiful Irene.. photo and writing… Seeger was certainly an example for all and among so many things an important part of the environmental movement as well… did so much for the Hudson Valley …. never KNEW THE STORY RE JOHN AND THE 45 R.P.M … knew he was an excellent write but did not know his talents were such that he could conjure his bride and soul mate….. xoxoxo MARK

    • IreneOGarden

      Thank you, Mark–yup, Pete enriched us all more than he knew–but perhaps he knows now!

  • Laura shaine Cunningham

    Such a beautiful tribute- to all involved. And an early Valentine.

    • IreneOGarden

      Many thanks, Laura! And I’ll share that with my Valentine!

  • giom

    thank you irene for sharing your moving tribute…late one night I was waiting for the local train in croton after work on then outskirts of the city and found myself as usual in a nearly empty station…I recognized pete talking with someone then take out his banjo and start playing with this man…I nudged two young men and said…”do you know who that is over there?” …sadly they didn’t know…what a gift he was to us….

    • IreneOGarden

      what a gift indeed, giom! What a warming story —

  • Cathy Gonick

    Thanks for the lovely remembrance. I too remember seeing Pete at that swim across the Hudson. And once ran into him walking along 9D from Sandy Beach to Cold Spring and had a brief but memorable chat. Things will not be quite the same without him. What a photo! Trick of the light, eh?

    • IreneOGarden

      I’ll always thank you for encouraging that swim, Cathy! And how wonderful you got to speak with him–

  • ZarkWriting

    You are right, Irene, this is a perfect picture & though he is now saying goodnight Irene, I hope you two will get to meet again sometime, in dreams. And yes, Ruby’s teacher Sky is writing a post too… 🙂

    • IreneOGarden

      Thanks, Jenna–what a lovely post on your site!
      For readers who don’t know, Jenna has written a wonderful book for young readers, The Beat On Ruby’s Street about a young girl hoping to grow up to be a Beat poet–Check it out!

  • mike jurkovic

    A beautiful piece Irene. . . if you’d like a couple pix of Pete from Howland, either check my post on FB or I’ll email you some. . . .

    • IreneOGarden

      Dear Mike–thanks ! Would love to see further pix of your boon companion!

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