A Wood­stock wed­ding, a dream ful­filled

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION - Stephanie Shapiro is a for­mer fea­ture re­porter for the Bal­ti­more Sun.

My son Ben and his fi­ancee Lind­sey are plan­ning a wed­ding in a re­claimed Catskills barn in Wood­stock, shot through with light from a galaxy of knot­holes. The cel­e­bra­tion in Au­gust will re­sound with live cov­ers of songs by The Band, Bob Dy­lan, The Grate­ful Dead; Crosby, Stills & Nash, and other mu­si­cians who were part of a cul­tural revo­lu­tion that peaked long be­fore they were born.

It was only nat­u­ral that a fam­ily road trip to tour the barn and find a wed­ding-wel­come party spot would in­clude a visit to the nearby Wood­stock Mu­seum at Bethel Woods. There, we dis­cov­ered that the wed­ding week­end co­in­cides ex­actly with the 50th an­niver­sary of the Wood­stock fes­ti­val.

I was 15 when the fes­ti­val hap­pened, an as­pi­ra­tional flower child with­out the gump­tion to make my way to Max Yas­gur’s hay­field along­side hun­dreds of thou­sands of oth­ers. It was sweet to be there at last, along with my hus­band, Tom, and Ben and Lind­sey. The mu­seum, next to the hay­field (now a rolling green car­pet em­bossed with a gi­ant peace sign), cap­tured the 1969 event’s ju­bi­lance, as well as the tor­ren­tial rains, epic traf­fic jam and bad acid trips that plagued rev­el­ers.

Wood­stock’s elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mances came alive on mu­seum screens. San­tana’s puls­ing “Soul Sac­ri­fice” still thrilled, as did Jimi Hen­drix’s in­cen­di­ary “Star Span­gled Ban­ner” be­fore a bedrag­gled au­di­ence on the fes­ti­val’s fi­nal morn­ing. A wa­ter-logged Ben and Lind­sey would have stuck it out to hear Jimi close the con­cert, had they been around for it —

they’re veter­ans of dozens of con­certs and mu­sic fes­ti­vals across the coun­try.

The ex­hibit made plain that not all was groovy a half cen­tury ago. On a con­tin­ual loop, Coun­try Joe Mc­Don­ald’s “Fish Cheer” (“I-Feel-Like-I’mFixin’-To-Die Rag”) and Joan Baez’s ren­di­tions of “We Shall Over­come” and “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night,” were a stark re­minder that the decade was awash in war, racial in­equal­ity and cor­po­rate greed.

De­spite those harsh re­al­i­ties, the decade was a refuge from a volatile home life. Its pur­ple rhetoric, brim­ming with ex­pres­sions of peace and love, was for me an op­ti­mistic sign that the Age of Aquarius would soon dawn, be­stow­ing peace and pros­per­ity on all humanity. Nor have cur­rent events ex­tin­guished the spirit of the 1960s nes­tled in my psy­che. Al­though older and wiser, I don’t re­gret that a wily and naive mo­ment in history framed my out­look on life. It stays in my mind’s back pocket, a re­minder of an im­pos­si­ble re­al­ity al­ways worth fight­ing for.

Ben and Lind­sey grew up in the shadow of 9/11 and are see­ing a ris­ing tide of racism and global sword rat­tling. They un­der­stand that Wood­stock is a fairytale that nos­tal­gic baby boomers like to tell their chil­dren. But the fairytale res­onates for them at a time of hate­ful pres­i­den­tial tweets, rou­tine vi­o­lence and soar­ing eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties. Al­though both work in cor­po­rate Amer­ica, a hip­pie spirit that goes be­yond the mu­sic and ac­ces­sories per­sists in their lib­eral out­look and de­sire for a more just world.

If our baby boomer rev­er­ies have kin­dled such a fan­tas­ti­cal spirit in our chil­dren, so be it.

Even if I didn’t claim the 1960s as my emo­tion­al­sup­port decade, the era’s mu­sic would re­ver­ber­ate among im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers, re­gard­less of gen­er­a­tion. Re­cently, Ben and I made a 1960s playlist on Spo­tify for our wed­ding-eve wel­come party. At 31, he knows the artists at least as well as I do. Each on a lap­top, we traded song ti­tles into the night: “With a Lit­tle Help from My Friends.” “Teach your Chil­dren Well.” “Pur­ple Haze.” “In­cense and Pep­per­mints.” “Mercedes Benz.” “Sun­shine Su­per­man.” “Cal­i­for­nia Dreamin’.” And of course, “Wood­stock.”

On the fes­ti­val’s an­niver­sary, we’ll cel­e­brate Ben and Lind­sey in a Vic­to­rian house not too far from Max Yas­gur’s farm. An il­lu­mi­nated peace sign will light the way, tie-dye will pre­vail, and the sound­track will be one that mil­len­ni­als and their par­ents know by heart.

“De­spite ... harsh re­al­i­ties, the decade was a refuge from a volatile home life. Its pur­ple rhetoric, brim­ming with ex­pres­sions of peace and love, was for me an op­ti­mistic sign that the Age of Aquarius would soon dawn, be­stow­ing peace and pros­per­ity on all humanity.”

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