Today, February 6th, is the birthday of two people who have been an influence upon my life. My mother, Rita Wright, was born on this day in 1933. She was just 19 years old when I was born, the first of 5 children. As I became aware of new ideas, of a world outside of my small provincial town & of the possibility of my own participation in these, Mum was ancient…at least 35 !
I left home when I was 18 with the blessing of my family, the first of the extended family to attend university. I was assembling my wordly goods with Mum just days before my departure & sensed that she was a little quiet. I asked if there was anything wrong & she said “Well, you’re going aren’t you”. I was surprised, I knew she was proud of my academic achievements &, even though I was a little caught up with my own adventure, I thought that one less body around our crowded house would make her life a little easier. I explained this last part & she said, “But you have always been here”. And so I had & so had she. I stepped outside of my teenage narcissism & recognized the constant & important presence we were for each other.
There had, like all eldest sons, been rough times with my Dad in my teenage years, probably rougher for me than for him. Years later my Dad told me of the frustration he felt & how, late at night, he would voice his criticism of my often willful behaviour (an inheritance from…well, guess where). He said, still surprised, that Mum would always defend me, always take my side. This was as open as Dad had ever been with me but I could only reply, “Dad, don’t you know that I already knew that”.
I have often been confused by the relationship between my friends & their parents. This is because I was raised in a hectic family where sharing & laughter were essential parts. It did not have to be said out loud but all 5 of us grew up knowing that we were loved. At the heart of this happiness was a woman who, I think, was a wonderful human being. This, I remember, was one of her favourite songs.
OK, it’s the birthday of Bob Marley too. I first saw the Wailers in 1973, on their first tour of the UK. I love reggae, love to find little-known dub plates & I’m still finding terrific songs from the 1970s which I have never heard. Without Marley this militant, conscious, righteous music would not have spread around the world. In the Summer of 1977 “Exodus” was everywhere, on the radio, from passing cars & on the turntable of everyone I knew. It is music of passion & beauty that makes the world a better place to be, This tune is no assertive indictment of oppression because today is a day for love songs.