Ah, Memories. What's Their Point, Again?
- 2007 Jul 14
For me, chief amongst the mighty and majestic mysteries of life is how in the name of Methuselah I could be 49 years old. It's simply impossible to fathom. One minute I'm playing my green tambourine in a meadow of crimson and clover whilst trying to smooch the sky, and the next I'm lying awake in the middle of the night, fretting about my cholesterol level. How did this happen? How did I go from wearing tie-dyed shirts to (sometimes) wearing shirts with ties? From "Power to the People!" to a power mower? From Joe McDonald and the Fish to Joe Fish Sandwich at McDonald's?
Where, oh where, have all the flowers gone?
I know what the more mathematically inclined amongst you are thinking: "But John! If you're 49 years old now, then in 1968 you were only 10 years old. That's not old enough to be a hippie! You wouldn't know Eldridge Cleaver from Beaver Cleaver. Get some memories of your own, you anachronistic loser!"
Wow. Pretty rough talk for someone who's disturbingly proficient at math. And anyway, I used to dance the jerk, okay? I used to "jerk" until my little 10-year-old back would spaz out and I'd have to hobble around like Jed Clampett. Sure, I was 10 in ‘68. But it so happens that my mother enrolled in college in 1966, and that she used to return home from campus demonstrations against the Vietnam War sporting tear gas welts and all kinds of nasty cuts and abrasions. She'd come stumbling in after a protest, my sister Nancy and I would bring her ice packs and ointments, and then we'd all settle in front of the TV to see if we could pick out Mom in any of that night's local news footage. One time I did spot her running across the bottom of the screen, a club-wielding policeman hot on her trail. After that I wasn't too interested in seeing my mother on the news anymore.
The revolution, it looked to me, was being televised.
Of course, my personal acts of social rebellion involved things like substituting my pet rat for my class's pet hamster, stealing every single board eraser at my school, and perfecting a belch so loud and sharp it would make our lunchroom monitor, Mrs. Blinkard, start like a gun had gone off. But I knew what time it was, man. I was down. I railed against the man. I advocated the complete overthrow of that system by which the establishment attempted to oppress me by giving me so much homework I hardly had any time left at all to watch cartoons. I organized a protest, picket-line and all, against the 7-11 in my neighborhood when they raised the price of Slurpees to 12 cents. Oh, yeah. My freak flag was flying, baby.
Meanwhile my sister, four years older than I, had transformed into Ms. Mod, in her frosty white lip gloss and white vinyl go-go boots. It was like living with Nancy Sinatra. Her high school binder was covered with stickers of those fat yellow and orange power-flowers. She thought Dean was cuter than Jan. She knew how to dance the jerk for hours without having to hobble around afterwards. She wore micro mini-skirts.
And I remember looking around the dinner table at my mom, her red eyes wet and swollen, a cut across her forehead, and at my sister, looking like Snow Blight. And I thought, "I live in a country that's in the middle of a terrible war. And since mom and dad got divorced, I now live in a family that doesn't have a father. I don't see how the three of us here can possibly make it."
Don't kids think the darndest things?
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