Several years ago I was on a flight from Cleveland to New York. It was late Sunday night; everyone was tired and grumpy.
I nodded at my seatmate; in typical flying fashion, neither of us said a word. I looked again. It was Mary Travers.
The Mary I remembered was the blonde, beautiful singer who helped make Peter, Paul and Mary national icons — and powerful forces for social change. But a few days earlier I’d seen a PBS special. She’d gained plenty of weight since their heyday. This was the new Mary.
Growing up and living in Westport, I learned to give celebrities their space. Paul Newman, Martha Stewart, Don Imus, Jason Robards, Eartha Kitt — I’d never said a word when I saw them in restaurants or on Main Street. Besides, what would I say? I had no connection with them.
But Mary Travers! Her music — “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “All My Trials,” “Day is Done” and so many others — had gotten me through adolescence. We sang her songs at summer camp. I still listened to them whenever I needed to relax, be inspired, or feel better (despite the urgency of their messages) about the world.
I could have told Mary Travers that I worked with her stepmother at the Westport News. I could have said I knew Frank Weiner — who, long before he became first an advertising executive and then a renowned English teacher at Staples High School, had been her babysitter back in the day.
But I said nothing. Besides, she was already asleep.
As the plane landed at LaGuardia, she woke up. Finally I gathered my courage.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thanks for all the pleasure your music has brought me, for so many years.”
She looked at me for the 1st time. She was not the least bit surprised. She had heard similar words — I suddenly realized — countless times for 4 decades.
But she smiled that broad Mary Travers smile. Though she was far heavier than in her Dylan days, her light, bright smile lit up the plane.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it too.”