How is it that we don’t know how hard it is to live until it’s just that? If we’re lucky, we wander through childhood blissfully unaware. Or we’re subliminally aware something isn’t quite right but not savvy enough to know what quite right is…or isn’t. Then all of a sudden the you know what hits the fan. For some of us it happens when we’re very young. Divorce…death…harsh realities come crashing down and we’re there just living with it. Handling it…or not.
I had no idea my world was seriously off kilter until I was twenty eight. Oh, there were signs. There was an undercurrent of ugly. Yet life in an idyllic bubble was easily skewed into a variety of excuses that wound up with “me” being the problem. There is no need to get into any of that. Suffice it to say, I was a good kid. Curiously creative during a time when there was so much to create. Also, in many ways, very fortunate to live an upper middle class life in an amazingly amazing environment. Where I grew up, from ten to twenty-one, was incredible. The sweet smell of green grass in the spring and summer. Fireflies. Croquet in the back yard. Walking home past the Fire House after school from the Valley Tea Shoppe following a ciggie and a vanilla coke.
Yet, reality reared its’ head from time to time. The Cuban Missile Crisis.
My husband grew up on the West Coast and to him it was merely a blip. To me, it was the possibility of the ultimate “duck and cover.” Seriously, we hid under our desks? To avoid nuclear obliteration. I clearly remember walking home from the Tea Shoppe during those days and hitting some leaves on a tree as I walked around the curve between the library, the fire house and our street, The Knolls. I remember thinking, “I might never do this again.” Our family, like so many others, had put lots of Campbell soup in our basement ~ despite multiple above ground windows.
While extinction seemed possible ~ and imminent ~ there was the underlying belief it would all turn out alright, because it always had during my lifetime to that point. After days holding our collective breaths, it did turn out alright. And life went on in a mostly bucolic fashion. Yet the peace of our reality continued to run parallel to intermittent blips of national and world wide horrendous. We remember what they were ~ no need to recount again.
In the bubble we moved forward ~ got our drivers licenses and went swimming at Shu Swamp in March just because we could.
Our rebellion included a few beers and the refusal to go into school one day late in the year in protest. What were we protesting? The right of boys to not wearing socks and girls to wear cullote pants. Seriously. We wearers of circle pins were true rebels.
My life mirrored that of so many others during that time. Smooth sailing on the surface as we paddled madly to stay afloat. A sense of discontent that all was not what it seemed without having any idea how to change the status quo. No one I knew was wildly problematic. We weren’t type cast to be “flower children.” We sat on Stehli’s beach during the summer slathering ourselves in baby oil with iodine and worked at the Pig ‘n Whistle.
Yet the time of real change was rapidly approaching. What would happen next?