The Flower Child in Us All

Sunday.  Temperatures are warmer this weekend than they have been for quite a while.  The blast of snow from a week or so ago is becoming a memory as we can see green grass again.  It’s been jam-packed weekends spent at a few music stores and picking up something we haven’t before – a mineral lick and corn for the deer that sometimes visit us.  I’m picking up the guitar almost daily, especially now that I jacked my card up again with the purchase of a Martin DRS1 and an Epiphone Emperor Swingster in wine red (which sort of makes up for having to sell my previous Epiphone years ago).

Got my taxes done on Saturday, and as I’m leaving the accountant’s office, he made a statement, “You’re a flower child.”  It struck me as odd at first that he would make a connection like that, but then thinking of my age, I guess it was a semi-obvious observation.  He then mentioned something about the bell-bottoms I had worn the previous year which actually were just wide-leg slacks.  If he only knew about my Martin Hippie guitar, how I wear peace symbol earrings a lot, and that I used to end all of my letters (back in the day when we actually used to mail handwritten letters via the Post Office) with “Pax”.  Yeah, I’m a flower child I guess, although I wasn’t even a teenager when it all started back in the 60’s.

Sure, I used to draw everything that was late 60’s and early 70’s – paisley designs, bold black and white patterns, groovy chicks with groovy mini-skirts and white go-go boots and long, flowing hair.  I used to wear headbands in school and in the early days of working in an office.  It was the style, at least for us hip-chicks wannabes.  I loved wearing bell-bottoms (still would if I could find some) and ponchos.  I wanted to sing in coffee houses and write songs that would strike a deep emotion in people.  I wanted to write the Great American Novel and make some kind of impact in the world.

But priorities change as we mature and grow older.

Am I any different than anyone else?  No.  Everyone has dreams and aspirations.  There are not all the same, but no matter what they are we strive for them – until something changes in our lives or ourselves.

I think we all have a kind of flower child in us at some point in our lives.  Something that drives us to make a difference.  Something that makes us want to be artistic, soulful, political, outspoken, a leader … whatever it is you call your own.

I don’t usually like labels, but I’m cool with being known as a Flower Child.

Peace, baby!

“The Help”

Several months ago a friend of mine recommended “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.  Always willing to read something a friend recommends, I immediately downloaded the novel to my Kindle.  I finished the book last weekend.

Most of you may know that “The Help” takes place in the 1960’s in Jackson, MS where the main set of characters have black “help” – women mostly, but some men too.  It’s a very interesting story of lives that are impacted not only by the times but by those they work with as well.  And then comes a women who wants to be a writer and who takes up the cause of exposing the things these black women deal with day after day in their roles as “help.”

One of the several story lines revolves around interracial issues – one of the maids gives up her baby because it was born with white skin (I won’t go into details about that story because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book).  Ms. Stockett also mentions Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and other social/political things that were going on during those years.

I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I remember both the King and Kennedy assassinations.  I remember the riots in the streets of Chicago – especially overhearing my Dad talking about them (he witnessed them firsthand as a truck driver in the city).  Now whether this is a true memory or not (I believe it is), I recall my parents telling my sister and me that we couldn’t walk down the street because of the riots – and that was the first time we had heard of such a thing.  Not able to walk in our own neighborhood in Bucktown?  What the heck was that all about?  It was about parents knowing that the violence could spread.

I also remember my Mom’s cousin Diane who we rarely saw and who was spoken of in hushed tones.  Diane was – Mom would always say – a mulatto.  Back then I didn’t really know what that meant; all I knew was that Diane had tan skin.  Back in the 1960’s that was a bad thing.  I vaguely remember Diane’s face, but what I do recall is that the few times I saw her, she was cute, smiling, bubbly, slightly overweight, and wore the cutest shift-style dresses.

So many things changed over the next decades – “colored” became “black”; “mulatto” became “mixed” or “interracial” – but then again, many other things did not change, such as people’s attitudes.

Growing up during those years of unrest explains, I guess, why my parents were so shocked when I announced in 1986 that I was marrying a black man.  I knew without a doubt that my Dad wouldn’t give me away (my brother-in-law stepped in for that action).  My Mom sort of took it in stride by the time of the wedding.  After all, Ken was handsome, well spoken, and a Baptist minister.  Several months after I was married, Dad accepted Ken as part of the family, and that made me very happy.

Ken and I waited five years to have Josh, and it was well worth the wait.  Josh is a great son.  I sometimes wonder how Ken’s and my divorce affected Josh, but honestly I think everything turned out okay.  My son knows the scoop, and he knows if he ever has any questions he’s free to ask.  He gets honest answers from both of us.

I apologized to Ken right before he and his current wife moved to Georgia.  I apologized for not holding his hand more often in public, and I apologized for letting some of the nuances of the 1960’s affect me to the point that I was constantly aware of people’s eyes on us as we walked together.  Back when we were first married, as much as I wanted to be near him, I sometimes held back knowing that some of the public still had major issues with interracial relationships.

** And let me just say it wasn’t always the white population that had issues.  I encountered a lot of flack from the black population too; especially in one of the churches we visited. Trust me – on more than one occasion I was told Ken could have done better than me, referring to having a black wife instead of a white one.**

People are going to be people no matter what.  A hard lesson to learn is that you should be true to what you feel, not to what others want you to feel.  Would things have turned out differently if I had focused more on the relationship than on the rest of the world?  Probably not.  I don’t think the circumstances of the breakup would have changed.  But it’s important to speak out that no matter the mix (skin color, sexual orientation – whatever), the relationship should be true to itself.

Be happy in your chosen relationship – be proud of it – be proud of the person you are with.

A Paisley Girl

I grew up during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’m a child of guitars, flower power, paisley, mushrooms (drawing them, not eating or otherwise ingesting them), folk music, classic rock, peasant blouses, white go-go boots, and all of the other wonderful things of those years. No matter how old I get, those things will remain a part of me. That mostly is a good thing, but sometimes – not so much.

Let’s take paisley, for example. No matter where I am, if I see something that is paisley I stop to take a look at it. If it’s a scarf or a blouse, I might buy it. If it’s a new Vera Bradley something-or-other, I might buy that too. A notebook? For sure! I can get away with having paisley things, but I’m learning that certain items are not considered “age appropriate.” Say what?

I have a very cool blouse I bought last year that is a deep blue paisley beauty. It looks stunning on the hanger is my closet. But when I put it on, I feel like I’m a 90-year-old woman trying to look 20. Not that I’m 90 yet (I’m only in my mid-50s). But the woman in the mirror doesn’t look like me when I see myself wearing that blouse. I expect to see me, only not so old-looking. It’s kind of hard to explain, I guess – unless you’ve been in that situation.

There are so many things I recall when I see paisley. I remember sitting in English class in high school and drawing little paisley patterns while the teacher lectured on some topic (okay, I admit my attention span wasn’t always on target). I remember this freaking awesome paisley dress I had gotten from a neighbor’s daughter when she outgrew it – all blue and purple and pink and absolutely wonderful. Most of all I can still see a different English teacher and the brown paisley shirt he sometimes wore, and oh, how I loved him … I mean, how I loved that shirt. Deep sigh …

Why are we so concerned about wearing things that are “age appropriate?” I wear Uggs® – is that a crime? I have an old copy of THE LITTLE PRINCE on my dresser. I have a C.F. Martin Hippie guitar. I play Barbies® with my boyfriend’s nine year old daughter. And I want to wear paisley blouses.

Are the age police going to come and take me away?