I grew up as a child of the hippie generation. My parents were both proud rebels. My dad grew out his dreadlocks, took off his shoes, and hitchhiked from Pittsburgh up to Canada, playing his guitar in streets and bars and hostels to earn his way along. My mother was a creative artist and a free spirit. They married just long enough to make the most important and adorable baby that the world has ever seen — that would be me. They went their separate ways but my mother maintained her hippie spirit.
We lived a simple life, sometimes without water or electricity but always with many loving friends around who were also creative and “earthy” and looking to change the world. We hitchhiked for groceries and listened to The Mamas and the Papas. My mother even grew her own marijuana. The images of marijuana leaves hanging to dry on hooks and shelves are a big part of my childhood memories. When my mother’s circle of friends would have their weekend-long gatherings at some cabin or cottage in the woods, we kids would be sent to bed at dark but, of course, we wouldn’t sleep. We would fight for space at the window, peeking out into the yard at all the adults sitting around a fire, laughing, playing instruments, and passing around thin, white cigarettes. Frankly, it looked very boring to our childish eyes. Where were the party games? The balloons? The snacks? Shoot, no one even has a radio down there!
It may seem strange to people reading this, but to me, it was perfectly normal. It was just our life. My mother wasn’t a bad mother…she was a rebel. She spent a lot of her youth proudly bucking the system. White women didn’t marry black men, and certainly didn’t have their babies. But my mom did. Young women didn’t raise children alone…but my mom did. Good boys and girls didn’t defy the law to smoke what they want when they want…but my mom did. Her community of friends took pride in being different. They took the creative paths while their parents “sold out” to the man for the white picket fence. They were going to treat the planet better than the warmongers who had been blowing it up for years in Vietnam and Korea. They were going to teach a new generation how to live sustainably and communally, even. They inherently distrusted “the man” and, in fact, they are the generation that gave us that term in the first place…”the man.” They were the protesters, the experimenters. They weren’t going to be the mindless zombies their parents were with their archaic notions about sex and family and religion.