When we arrived in Connecticut, after finishing up my parents’ vacation with them in New Hampshire, we immediately hit up the local bar for a gig. It was a huge success with all of our friends showing up to support us. Of course, we were convinced that this was our big start, so we set up housekeeping in Connecticut. My parents were thrilled. They would have their only grandchild close by. Now, you have to understand that my parents hated my husband. He was not who they had envisioned for me. He was a long-haired hippie who had been on the road since he was 14 and had whisked me away hitchhiking across the country. But at least he had married me when I got pregnant and provided for us, so they began talking to him on our return.
That doesn’t mean that things weren’t still tense. My parents were very conservative Republican, and my dad was quite influential in town. They knew that we smoked pot, which was a very big deal at that time. They also knew that we were very radical politically, and that was an even bigger deal. As a result, my daughter (Jessie) spent a lot of time with them by herself. Unfortunately, my sister was 16 years younger than me and became jealous of this interloper. She had been close to me before I left. Now I came back with a baby. How could I abandon her like that? At that time, they were both young enough that it was manageable, though that changed years later. Also, my mom still had a young child at home and wasn't available as often as I had hoped she would be.
Meanwhile, I took Jessie on walks around the neighborhood every day. We visited the firehouse which was only a block away and walked to the library. There was the park where I had gone to school with swings and slides. We also walked to the nearby vacant lot every morning. She called it the meadow. We would run and play, picking wildflowers and watching the butterflies. After a few rainy days, when we were unable to visit the meadow, we noticed that our apartment was vibrating - a lot! The dishes were rattling, and things were falling off the shelves. We finally got a sunny day and walked over to the meadow only to find that it had been transformed into a rock crushing operation. I looked at Jessie, worried at what her reaction would be. She looked up at me with awe and said, “Look Mommy! Now we can go to the mountains!” And we did, every morning. Luckily for us, they only worked in the afternoons and evenings.
None of our friends had children yet, so it was difficult for us to acclimate into our old group of friends. Many of them were wonderful, but we just couldn’t go out on the town every night as we had in the past. We did have a babysitter that lived in our building and hired her until we discovered that she was stealing our pot and getting way too high while watching our child. Jessie was not in school, and we didn’t go to a church, so it felt impossible to meet other young parents. We also struggled with finding other musicians to play with. In California, we'd had a full exciting life where we'd grown up a lot and changed our views on many things. Now, we were back in a conservative environment where many of our friends had not changed at all, still living the high life with no responsibilities. We were quickly becoming dissatisfied with our current environment.
In addition to those struggles, making a living in Connecticut was just as hard as it had been when we left. The cost of living was high, and we were unskilled workers. Our friends, who had come out en masse to support our music soon tired of it and went their own way. Paul worked two jobs while I tried my hand at different jobs … a school crossing guard and a school bus driver. Ugh! Although I could bring Jessie with me to both of these jobs, they both turned out to be horrible.
As a crossing guard, I was often the target of curses and had to jump out of the way of cars trying to run me down, sometimes while the kids were still crossing. Even with my little sign and vest, there was just no respect for that during rush hours. The school bus job was just as bad. I drove a short bus, bringing Jessie along for the ride. There were still no seat belts back then, and I was refused an aide. I had one girl who removed every item of clothing one at a time, throwing them out the bus window as I drove. Jessie soon learned to do that, too. By the time I reached my destination, I would have two naked girls. I had another girl who tried to run out of the bus every time I stopped to let someone on or off. I would open the door and lunge for her, holding her while she kicked and flailed at me and whoever was getting on or off. Once she got away and I had to flag down a passerby to chase her down and bring her back because I couldn’t leave the bus unattended. It was a zoo! Time and time again I requested back-up, but no help came. For a short while, the mom of a boy on crutches rode with me in the mornings. But that was short lived as he only needed the ride until he was off crutches.
I finally gave up the bus driving job because they got tired of me complaining about the lack of an aide and decided to put me into the bus that drove to the projects. The woman who had driven that route before me had been attacked by the students and ended up in the hospital, so there was a vacancy. They assured me that I shouldn’t worry because they had now installed a radio, so I could call for help if needed. Although I enjoyed driving the buses, and mostly enjoyed the kids, that was the end of my bus driving career.
Meanwhile, Paul was working nights at a high-rise private club as a chef and daytimes as a school cafeteria cook and manager. He had Sundays off and slept most of the day. Life had gotten very stressful there. We fought for much of the time he was awake, and my mother was once again starting to try to run my life, which was one of the reasons I had left originally. We realized that we needed to get out of there … again … so we started to plan the next move.
Please support your local musicians! We can't survive without you.