I remember one little girl that come in from the country. She blowed into town one day from some thriving little church community, and she wasn’t what you’d call a good-looking girl, but she wasn’t ugly. Sort of plump, but she wasn’t a bit fat. She’d worked hard at washing milk buckets, doing housework, washing the family’s clothes. She could milk an old Jersey cow. Her face and her hands looked like work. Her room in the rooming house wasn’t big enough to spank a cat in. She moved in, straightened it up, and gave it a sweeping and a dusting that is headline news in an oil boom town. “Boy in Search of Something” from “Bound for Glory”
In processing my Oklahoma trip, one thing keeps coming to me: the importance of memory. Not as in remembering where I parked my car, or remembering that my daughter’s day camp ends at 3, not 3:30 (although that one was pretty important on Tuesday). Memory in bigger terms.
Being remembered by Billy Bragg made me feel more important than I care to admit. But it’s the truth. I don’t know why he remembered me. Could have been for positive or negative reasons.
What matters is I was remembered. Something about me was unique enough to merit a spot in the brain of this person I admire who has absolutely no obligation or reason to remember me.
I also spent a lot of time, especially while cooped up in the driver’s seat by myself, wondering why this project is important to me. Why is it important to – here’s that word again – remember Woody Guthrie a hundred years after his birth?
No, I don’t have an answer. I have a lot of answers, all right and wrong and everywhere in between. They all boil down to one stupidly simple thing:
It’s important to be remembered.
Not just for our egos, either. If you’re remembered, you’ve done something or been someone who has left a mark. Hopefully a positive one. We all leave marks, trails made of bits other people pick up along the way, tuck into their pockets. Lots of those bits get lost in the wash. Except for the important ones we care to protect.
It’s not special to be remembered. It’s special to leave bits that are worthy of the time, space, and energy required to remember.
This is probably some of the reason why I was so pissed off at a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the morning after the Billy Bragg concert.