I was born in 1959, so I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I often find myself going back to those times in my mind. I am the oldest of three girls. I was born at Fort Leavenworth when dad was in the Army, but my earliest memories of life start in a rented farmhouse near Sweetser, Indiana. My mind goes to my dog Happy, our ponies Sandy, Dandy and Candy, my school and learning to read, and my sweet sisters.
We moved into town, in Marion, Indiana, however, before I started third grade. We moved into a little white house with a nice front porch and a pretty back yard with a garage out back. That is the home, on D Street, that I remember most, because it was in that home where I had neighbor kids to play with and I met my first real “hippy.”
Her name was Debbie, and she had long, straight reddish hair. She wore wire-rim glasses and loved animals. She wore “hippy” clothes as well. I remember when I found a black puppy that I knew belonged to my favorite classmate, Emilio Perez, and his family, she kept it for me overnight until I could walk him over to Emilio’s house. I also remember being fascinated by her. I would sometimes sit down on her front lawn and listen as she and some of her male friends would talk about how he just got out of jail, and whatever else they talked about. I’m sure my mother had no idea what I was doing. Back then, kids could play all over their neighborhood without parents being worried about them. When Debbie came home with a little red-haired baby, I got a strange lesson from mom when I asked her where that baby came from, since Debbie wasn’t married.
I think I was 9 years old or 10 at the time, and mom answered my question with a “she just slept with too many guys.”
I was completely stunned. I had no idea that sleeping with a guy could give a girl a baby. I had often slept with my cousin Bobby, who was my best friend. I was very worried for a few weeks that I might end up with a baby. Later, I learned what she meant, but, at the time, I really had no clue.
I suppose those days have been romanticized in my mind just because they’re “back there” in time, when I was innocent, and hadn’t ever heard of internet trolls or political pundits. Those years had their struggles, for sure, and I’m glad I’m past them in many ways. But, I do miss some things about those days.
I miss the family station wagon with the wood on the side. I miss family get-togethers with my aunts and uncles and cousins. I miss having a Kool-Aid stand in my front yard, and walking to the library to get a stack of books. I miss walking to school before Christmas and looking down the street to see the pretty decorations downtown. I miss our old black Chevy Impala convertible, that I called the Batmobile. I miss softball games in the park, going to church with my family in the little old church on 3rd Street, and the ice-cream stand across the street.
I miss my old dog, and playing Cops and Robbers with all of the boys in the neighborhood. I miss trick or treating and trying to dress up as the most disgusting person ever, with plenty of ketchup for blood. I miss Christmas morning, sneaking downstairs early to see if I could guess my presents.
I miss laughing with my sisters, playing LIFE and Monopoly. I miss playing with my cousins Bobby and Mark and becoming a spy, or a soldier, or a cowboy. I miss my cap gun and my little red wagon.
I really miss that family vacation, where we drove across the country and saw the Western U.S., Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Ocean. I miss singing “Let There Be Peace On Earth” at the top of my lungs with my sisters in the back of the car for the tenth time, while Mom and Dad rolled their eyes and laughed. I miss camping out, and eating around a fire and smelling the wood burn.
But, I’m also happy to be in the 21st century, where there are more opportunities for women and minorities, where I can be free from some of the trauma of my childhood days, and where I can relax in my own home, take a hot, whirlpool bath and play with my dog in the yard. I love taking a trip down memory lane, sure enough, but, I’m always happy to zoom right back to where I am now. And, from where I sit, the future looks promising.