Listening to: Yellow Submarine, The Beatles and Isn’t Life Strange, The Moody Blues
As the ‘60s ended, my childhood experiences shifted from riding bicycles with playing cards clipped to the spokes by a clothes pin, kickball in the street, or trying to learn MAD Magazine songs put to the tunes of White Christmas … to a country divided by the Vietnam War and the development of a new culture called Hippies. With my three sisters, I’d eaten McDonalds hamburgers, sen-sen, yoo-hoos, hot toothpicks and candy cigarettes. I’d graduated from believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. As seen on TV, the ideal American family was “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons” or “The Patty Duke Show.” I overheard my mother tell a friend she wanted a divorce. That episode never aired.
My biological and step-father were sent to Vietnam the year I started junior high school. In the event something happened, we moved closer to my mother’s relatives. She drove us in a beige Comet stationwagon. We’d never heard the word seat belt as we sped along two lane highways. The days were mystical, confusing but intriguing– challenging my childhood values and belief systems to stand or change. I heard “God was Dead.” Yet, I romped in the woods, the ionic scent of a stream running through a horse pasture lingered in my soul. I heard bullfrogs named Jeremiah were drinking wine, Submarines were Yellow and Monkees were taking the last train to Clarksville. Rock bands were Beetles, Rolling Stones, Doors, Moody Blues or Pink Floyd. Why was Floyd Pink? What made Blues Moody? Where did the Doors take me? Cars were bugs, mustangs, comets and impalas.
I was leaving a time when the imagination was stimulated by The Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, and Dark Shadows. At the drive-in, my sisters and I were horrified as we huddled on the ground, under a homemade quilt eating sugar cubes from the snack stand as aliens resembling turtles with octopus tentacles ate humans. Walt Disney had thrilled us with a car named Herbie, a Shaggy Sheepdog and a Flubber. Don Knotts terrified us every Halloween in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. My mother dropped us at the movie theater smelling like musty popcorn and soda to watch animations of Cinderella, Snow White and 101 Dalmatians. The Three Stooges had entertained us with crabs in soup, finger pokes and chases through the halls of hospitals by Dr. Fine, Dr. Fine and Dr. Howard. Each year, The Wizard of Oz and Rudolph were faithfully telecast. Somehow through it all, good triumphed evil.
But, as we left the 60’s, girls traded their miniskirts for gypsy-style skirts, flower power pants and wore flowers in their hair. Boys grew long hair and secured with beaded headbands or ponytails. There were new words– LSD, weed, pot, sex. My favorite childhood story, The Wonderful Trip to the Mushroom Planet, suggested a new meaning! Smiley Faces were everywhere! Crayola introduced new crayons labeled psychedelic. Our American lifestyle was scarred with assassinations, Cold War mania and government scandals. Adults talked about Free Love, Woodstock, Haight Ashbury and draft dodgers. The Smithsonian exhibited Moon Rocks! Neil Armstrong had made one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind— on the Moon through live t.v.
But now, the polarizations openly and sublimely flooding society perspectives were weaving the tapestry of my transition from childhood to teen life. Encouraged to find my voice, I assessed and questioned what I believed in. I just wasn’t sure what I believed in yet. What pre-teen does? The emotional and social awkwardness was difficult to walk. But, as I hoped, exercised and used the muscle, it imprinted a personal signature. So, by the early ‘70s, I left my childhood and walked towards my womanhood. My personhood. Developing my identity for the future when I’d exercise independence with my peers. Some more fortunate than I, some less. Each of us had a mark to leave. Life was full of new social dilemmas from puppy love crushes, developing physical body changes, and choosing paths with or without drugs. I realized there were no such things as fairy tales, but the smell of patchouli and fun hippy clothes could make it fun!