This is probably not a revelation to anyone, but I am a hippie through and through and have been for a very long time. So, what does that even mean in today's world? We no longer live in the 60s and 70s, the heyday for the hippie movement. We are living in very dark times in this country. We're facing misogyny, racism, homophobia, bullying and overt meanness and intolerance every day. And this is being led by our own president and world leader. To me, being a hippie is about being against all those things. It’s about tolerance, acceptance and flexibility.
I was born into a conservative Republican household in 1953. My dad’s hero was Richard M. Nixon. He even had a photo of himself shaking hands with Nixon hung proudly in the living room. My brother grew up to embrace those same values, which are very different today then they were then. At one point, he even joined the John Birch Society. He is now disillusioned with his party of choice, and my dad must be rolling in his grave to see what the Republican party has become today. Although I was indoctrinated early on to believe in conservatism, it never rang true for me. I always championed for the underdog, opposing the Viet Nam war, the death penalty and supporting civil rights and feminism. But, I didn’t realize I was a hippie until I moved to the West Coast.
I knew I didn’t fit into the mold that I had been poured into in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. Nothing made sense. There were no opportunities to expand my horizons unless I took a train to New York City. Every time a coffeehouse or other music venue opened or a community center for teens, it was quickly closed. The only way to amuse ourselves was through alcohol and drugs, which were prevalent with easy access. That didn’t seem right to me. Even the church run coffeehouse didn’t last. However, like everyone else, I dove into that world and quickly discovered psychedelics. LSD opened me up to limitless possibilities. I suddenly saw the world so clearly. I not only saw the injustices, but I was empowered to try to change things. Soon, I met Paul Cavanaugh, who would later become my husband, and we left to hitchhike across the country on New Year’s Day in 1975. We eventually found ourselves in San Francisco in a hippie commune for artists, and my real education began.
Here was a place where I finally felt as though I belonged. The building was filled with radicals. I learned about whole foods and vegetarianism. I learned about radical politics. I became comfortable with my body for the first time. I met members of SDS, Black Panthers and more. I learned that there was more to life than finding a husband and settling down to a safe middle-class lifestyle. I did end up getting married, under protest, when I became pregnant. It was still hard to be unmarried with a child, and since my parents were threatening to disown me, Paul insisted, and I finally relented. I look at my wedding photos now and see how angry I felt at being pushed into this contract I wanted no part of.
We raised our children in a hippie lifestyle in an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance with whole organic foods, growing and preserving our own food, healing with herbs and other natural remedies, living simply and remembering the important things in life. We were free of societal constraints, going on the road when we felt like it, befriending good people regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation and trying to pass those beliefs on to our children. Recently, a friend asked to see photos of me as a hippie. I thought, look at me now. I am still a hippie through and through and always will be. I believe in peace, love and harmony.
The definition of Hippie according to the urban dictionary is as follows.
A Hippie is a person who was raised under the ideological system that came out of the tumultuous 1960's in North America and western Europe. They are either of the flower-child/baby boomer generation or that generations' subsequent offspring. They possess a core belief set revolving around the values of peace and love as being essential in an increasingly globalized society, and they are oftentimes associated with non-violent anti-governmental groups. There is a stigma of drug abuse attached to the hippies that is prevalent to this day, specifically the use and abuse of marijuana and hallucinogens. Many rock movements, poets, artists, and writers from the 1960's to today have associated with this movement, most prominently The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Phish. There are others too numerous to name. The movement, then and now, is considered a sub-culture by sociologists that associates itself with the left in all its political opinions. The conservative right often berates and abuses the opinions of people who associate themselves with the hippie movement and/or lifestyle, as they consider it dangerous and degenerative to a society to favor liberalism to such an extent.
Here is another photo from my wedding with some of the residents from the commune in attendance.
Our first child was born in Santa Cruz, California in 1975. I had just turned 22, and Paul was 19. He had left home at the age of 14 and had lived on the road until I met him, and we moved in together. He soon took me for the ride of my life, and I've never looked back.
Then a few years and two children later living in Oregon. Many years later, our third child was born in Albany, NY. We had three children, all born in different states.
But ... once a hippie, always a hippie.
Although this was written over a year ago, it is very poignant to me now. I realize that this may upset some people, but that is not my intent. These are just my own observations based on my personal experiences.
I was baptized as a baby, raised Catholic and, although my parents were not the most devout Catholics in the community, it had a profound effect on me. Because I went to public school through 7th grade, I was required to go to Catechism classes before I could go to Confession and receive my First Communion then later Confirmation, three of the seven possible sacraments. My parents took us to church sporadically. Of course, we went for all the important holidays such as Christmas and Easter. We also went almost every week during the sacrament years. My dad liked to go to the mass that Father Bouton said because he talked very fast and had short sermons, so we were in and out quickly. Most of the women in the parish liked those masses too because Father Bouton was young and handsome with a sexy French accent, so we had to go early if we wanted to get a seat. It was fun watching the fashion parade as all the women were dressed to impress.
I preferred the high masses because of the beautiful music, and because they were in Latin. I didn’t really care what the words meant, but the language sounded so archaic and mysterious. I would sit there letting my imagination wander, managing to come in with the proper responses at just the right times. I think the Catholic Church expanded my love for music of all types. I still love hymns. I also loved the incense and all the pomp and circumstance. It felt regal to me, as I imagined being in a royal court in some far away time and place.
The magic of church quickly wore off once I started Catechism classes. I always had a thirst for learning and drove my parents crazy with all my questions. Now I was learning so many new things. I remember learning about Limbo, a place just like Heaven where unbaptized babies were sent. The only downside, according to the church, was that these babies would never get to see God. I could see a whole lot of other downsides and started asking questions. Who took care of the babies? Why did they care about seeing God since they didn’t even know who or what God was? Would they ever get to see their parents? Could their parents apply for visitation once they died? Did the babies ever grow up, or did they just stay babies forever? If so, it didn’t seem like a very pleasant place to me with nothing but a bunch of babies lying around. That was the first time I was thrown out of Catechism. My parents had to submit a special application to get me reenrolled in time for Holy Communion.
After that, I had a respite for a little while, but then I went back to prepare for Confirmation. Remembering my past experience with these classes, my parents enrolled me a year early and, once again, I got thrown out for asking too many difficult questions. My parents were told to instruct me that I was supposed to confirm my faith in God, not question the tenets of the church. I wasn’t so keen on that idea, but threatened with severe punishments, I decided to play along. I was already making up sins for confession because I wasn’t sure I had really sinned enough, so playing their game of submission should be easy, right? Wrong! I just couldn’t manage to keep my mouth shut. I received many warnings, and extra penance, but they let me stay. I think they just wanted to push me through and be done with it.
When you’re confirmed, you choose a saint’s name to take as your confirmation name. I chose Saint Therese, the little flower. We were encouraged to research the female saints before choosing, and I loved her story. I was told I couldn’t have that one because there were too many girls ahead of me who had chosen that name. I didn’t understand why that was a problem but chose St. Cecelia because she was the patron saint of music. That name was also too popular. They suggested Veronica, who offered her cloth to Jesus to wipe his face on his way to his crucifixion. I thought it was a bit morbid, but had no other choices, so that became my confirmation name. At the actual ceremony, you kiss the bishop’s ring, he says, “Peace be with you,” then he slaps you on the cheek as an incentive to be strong in your faith and as a reminder of your decision to be confirmed. Most of the girls were gently tapped. All the boys, and me, were slapped. To me, that slap signified the unquestioning submission that was expected of us. It brought everything into perspective in that one short moment, all my doubts about my religion were confirmed. I’m sure it was not the confirmation they expected.
Not long afterwards, the church changed with Vatican II. We were no longer required to eat fish on Friday. Most of the masses were in English. Limbo was in question, as were plenary indulgences, a way to buy your way into heaven for those who could afford it. Most of the things I had questioned went by the wayside. I felt vindicated but incredibly frustrated. I knew those things were wrong but was punished for questioning them. It didn’t make any sense to me. I may have been born a rebel, but the Catholic Church solidified and magnified that in me.
Many years later, my mother-in-law died. One of her daughters insisted on having her buried out of the Catholic Church, although she had been excommunicated for being divorced. The local priest agreed to do it anyway. During her eulogy he stated that, although she had been a sinner all her life and could never make her way into heaven on her own, her mother had been very generous to the church with her donations of … and he went on to list all the statues and additions to the church her millionaire mother’s money had provided … then told the congregation that since all this money had been donated, Catherine might possibly find her way into purgatory. At that, half of the congregation got up and left. He didn’t even know about the pile of plenary indulgences (tickets to get into heaven that were bought with substantial sums of money) she had bought over the years. Since then, I have not participated in a mass, and I refuse to kneel. It doesn’t mean anything in the long term, but it means everything to me.
Unfortunately, I learned firsthand, and more than once, about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and have no respect and no use for it. I watched good Catholics, who went to church every Sunday, do terrible things during the rest of the week. When I attended Catholic High School for four years with a severe physical disability, I was bullied and tormented by my classmates, as the teachers and administration insisted that these good Catholic boys and girls would never do such cruel things to anyone, and I must be exaggerating or just inventing these outlandish stories. Meanwhile, we had three suicides and one school shooting in my graduating class.
My experience with religion has left me jaded and bitter but not without spirituality. I follow my own unorganized spiritual practices and try to live a good life based on respect for all people and nature, doing the right things and being kind and generous to all. I am not anti-religion, it’s just not for me. I believed it’s important that we all choose our own true path, and there are so many options. I have a great deal of respect for the ideas in each religion and for those who live their lives according to the teachings of their chosen religion and great disdain for those, including many of our politicians and leaders, who talk a good game but live their lives contrary to what their God would want. If you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better be willing and able to walk the walk.
I think that playfulness is the spice of life. When I was a child, I was accused of not having a sense of humor. It was true that I didn't laugh at racist or misogynistic jokes. I didn’t laugh at other people’s expense and didn’t laugh when the mean-spirited jokes were aimed at me. I spent much of my life believing that misconception about myself. I was just too serious. However, I started noticing that people often laughed around me. At first, I thought they were laughing at me. Then it suddenly dawned on me … I was making them laugh because I was funny. I have a very dry humor filled with sarcasm that is often misunderstood or just overlooked, but those who get it are very entertained by me. Who would have thought? Even my young grandson now asks, "Nana, are you being sarcastic?" The answer is usually, "Yes!"
Besides humor though, I am playful. I don’t tend to get upset by much and often look for the fun in a terrible situation. For example, one time when my younger son was around 9 or 10, we were sitting in the kitchen having dinner when I realized that everyone was just kind of pushing the frozen corn around on their plates, trying to avoid it. I tasted a bite, and it was horrible. The vibe in the room was very depressing, and I realized I needed something to change it. I took a forkful of corn and flung it across the table at my son. He was only frozen in shock for a moment before he got an amazing twinkle in his eye and flung corn back at me. Soon, my partner at the time started flinging corn, too. The dismal dinner soon erupted into a full out food fight, and peals of laughter filled the room. It wasn’t hard to clean up, and everyone gladly helped. My son, now in his late 20s, still fondly remembers the evening his mom started a food fight.
I must admit, sometimes my playfulness backfires, like the time I threw a snowball at a new boyfriend and found myself buried in a huge snowbank, barely able to get out. That was a precursor to an abusive relationship that I foolishly rationalized away at the time. Also, because of my dry humor, people often take me seriously when I’m joking. Oh well, I wouldn’t give up my playfulness for anything. I think it’s a large part of what keeps me young. I think we all need to lighten up. Life can be hard, but our attitude determines how harmful it is.
My current partner tells me I'm spontaneous. I used to think that was a nice way of saying that I’m a bit of a flake. He insists that I lose track of things because I’m living in the moment, likely to go off on a tangent at any time. He's right. I've always had an adventurous spirit. It’s true that there are times when I’m on my way home from work and spontaneously take a detour, arriving home much later than expected, usually with a great story to tell. Being willing to go adventuring on a whim is a large part of my playfulness. I’m always willing to try something new. I usually prefer to take the road less traveled. I’m open to almost anything. Life is too short to take everything seriously. I want to live my life to its fullest, looking back at the end feeling satisfied. Don’t you? Meanwhile, anytime you’re looking for a partner for a new adventure, hit me up. I’ll probably join you.