Literally, one of my earliest memories is of my dad sitting at our dining room table, a yolk-colored classical guitar sitting on his knee as he played and sang, 'This Land Is Your Land'. My dad has a beautiful alto voice, high and reedy – and even though he doesn't play and sing very much anymore, when he does, he still sounds exactly like he did when I was a kid.
As a child, I would sit underneath the large, rectangular oak table, playing with my Fisher Price Little People while he sang his way through the folk canon, chin jutting out as he reached heavenward for the highest notes. There was the eponymous, 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia'. 'Take Me Home Country Roads', 'Tom Dooley' and 'City Of New Orleans'. Even a little Beatles ('Norwegian Woods') for good measure.
He wasn't the greatest guitar player in the world. He spent more time looking for the next chord (the note he was singing held out as long as it took to get his fingers in the right place) than it should've taken to play the whole song, but I didn't care. I liked being unwittingly serenaded while I played with my toys.
As an adult now, sitting at a different dining room table, listening to Pete Seeger sing, 'This Land Is Your Land' (on an old record my dad has called, I Can See A New Day), this is the the song that sticks out in my mind, the song that my childhood is concretized around. I know most of its verses by heart - well, at least the first three – and though I don't hear it sung out loud very often, when I do, my whole heart lifts just a little bit. It's a mash note to America, to a beautiful country full of diverse climes and starry, starry skies.
It's also the anthem of how I want to live my life. The words of the chorus say everything: "This land is your land, this land is my land...this land is made for you and me."
Equality for all, right there in a song for everyone to sing.
My dad taught me that.