We soon got tired of the first apartment we were in. It was certainly nicer than anything we’d lived in together before that, but we didn’t like being in a complex. We had some new friends who asked us if we’d like to rent a house together, so we moved a little further from downtown into a small house. While living in that small house with our friends, we found an abandoned puppy walking in a busy street. He was too tiny to even hop up the curb onto the sidewalk but kept trying, tumbling backwards and crying. He followed us down the street until Paul finally picked him up and placed him on the sidewalk directing him to go home. He decided that we were his family and kept following us. He was so small that when we crossed the street, he tumbled off the curb, rolling a bit before setting himself upright again. We kept trying to chase him away. Paul even kicked at him a few times to no avail. We really didn’t want a dog. We were already having a baby and didn’t think we could handle another responsibility, plus we didn’t know how long we would stay in one place, so we went door to door looking for the owners of this adorable creature. No one claimed him, and we eventually brought him home and named him Topaz.
Our friends decided to move elsewhere, and the rent was too much for us to keep up with alone, so we went looking for another place to live. This was one of the perils of hanging out with so many transient people. The landlord of the apartment we eventually moved into told us that we could have a small dog. He was certainly small, and in our immediate love for him, we didn’t notice the size of his feet. He turned out to be a Great Dane/Malamute mix and started to grow. He also chewed on everything in sight including our laundry, the redwood porch and most of my houseplants. I had to watch him constantly. He somehow sensed that I was pregnant and would often lay next to me on the couch or the bed resting his head on my growing stomach.
Once we settled into this new place, it was time to make plans for the impending birth of our first child. I spent most of my free time reading about pregnancy and babies and becoming a “Susie Homemaker.” Paul soon found a job as a cook in a local restaurant, but I had no luck, so I stayed at home preparing to become a mom. I started collecting baby items and reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and babies. We were getting food stamps at the time, but it wasn’t ever enough to provide for us. I was determined to eat well, paying very close attention to what nutrients my baby needed to grow healthy and strong, so I started visiting the dumpsters in back of the grocery stores and picking out the still perfectly good food that had gotten thrown out that day. I wasn’t the only one doing that but, because I was pregnant, the other dumpster divers gave me preference. I actually enjoyed not being the main bread winner for a change. It enabled me to focus on becoming a mother. I already had experience with babies since my mother had an unexpected child when I was 16 and was unwell for a while, so I’d had to learn quickly how to care for an infant.
We lived only a few blocks from the beach with its boardwalk and amusement park. I walked there every day to ride the wooden roller coaster, which was only a dollar at the time. After a while, and as I started to show more, the attendants wouldn’t even charge me for my daily ride. During my 8th month, we decided to take a trip to Disneyland, a place I’d always wanted to visit, having grown up on The Mickey Mouse Club. When I got up to the head of the line for the Matterhorn, a roller coaster, they said I couldn’t go on because of liability issues. Roller Coasters were my all-time favorite thing, and I was determined to go on this one, so I fought them until they finally let me sign a waiver and get on board. After all the drama of getting on, the actual ride was very anticlimactic but fun, nonetheless.
Being the true hippies that we were at that time, we had smoked up before arriving, being careful to not smoke too much because we had to pass the grooming inspectors and the all-important attitude inspectors. The Disneyland officials didn’t really like hippies, but at least we weren’t Yippies and, even though we were “highly inspired,” we passed through without incident. One of the first places we visited was Tom Sawyer’s island because we knew the Yippies had invaded it on August 6th, 1970, just a mere 5 years earlier. Here is a link for an article about the incident. http://nightflight.com/august-6-1970-the-day-the-yippies-invaded-disneyland/ Although the attraction was boring and not much of an attraction at all, it was a landmark for us.
After the Matterhorn ride, the next stop was the Disneyland Railroad. As we rode around the park, we passed the kennels where we were absolutely sure we could hear our puppy howling. We knew we wanted to go to the Haunted House next and, as our inspiration was waning, we picked up the dog and went out to the parking lot to get re-inspired and give our sweet Topaz a respite from his cage. We looked around, didn’t see anyone nearby and lit up a joint. We each got one hit when we suddenly saw two three-wheeled vehicles coming our way … fast! Uh-oh! Paul quickly threw the joint away. The cops walked up to us and said, “Okay, where is it?” Of course, Paul replied, “Where’s what, officer?” We heard a voice from the radio say, “It’s under the blue impala.” What?! How did they know that? We soon found out. They retrieved it, gave a sniff and said, “It’s still burning, too.”
We weren’t cooperative at first. We were under the impression that the law had recently changed, making possession a misdemeanor. The security guards, smiling slightly, informed us that, yes, the laws had changed but didn’t go into effect until January 1st. Not only that, Disneyland security didn’t have to answer to Anaheim police and even had their own underground jail, which they would be happy to let us check it out. Obviously, our attitudes changed quickly. We found out that they have cameras everywhere, even on all of the light poles in the parking lots, and a whole team watching them. They asked if we had any more inspiration. Paul, always a very quick thinker, handed over four more rolled joints, being very respectful and looking very cowed. We were all hoping that they wouldn’t decide to search the car, which would have landed us in a lot more trouble. They asked if he had purchased it in the park. He answered no that he had bought them in “Golden Gate Park from a guy named Stoney,” and they actually believed him. I guess we looked like tourists in our car with Connecticut plates and our little dog. Plus, I was 8 months pregnant.
We didn’t end up in jail. We got thrown out and told, “Don’t come back for the rest of the day!” We left and went to Knotts Berry Farm instead, coming back to Disneyland the following day, completely inspired and headed directly to The Haunted House before that newly acquired inspiration wore off. After they told us to leave, Paul turned to them and asked, “How did you know we were out here getting inspired?” They looked him dead in the eye and said, “The Mouse is everywhere.” That later became a song that we titled “875” or “The Mouse is Everywhere.” It was a very popular song locally, complete with the story and its psychedelic soundtrack.
As my due date got closer, I had to have a plan to get to the hospital. We had no car, so I decided that I would hitchhike. After all, we had just hitched all the way from the East Coast. What could go wrong? I figured I would hold up a sign that said, “Having a baby.” I knew first time labors were supposed to be long anyway, so I’d have plenty of time. And, who wouldn’t pick up a pregnant woman in labor? I’d have Paul with me, so I didn’t worry about safety. Another friend, Nancy, who had followed us out from Connecticut, wouldn’t hear of it and insisted on driving us. After being badgered for days by both Nancy and Paul, I finally relented. "Fine," I replied reluctantly. I still didn’t see a problem with my original plan. When Jessica was born, Nancy visited every day, washing dishes, cooking meals, cleaning, holding and cooing to Jessie while I napped. It was amazing. I was so thankful to have a friend to help out.
My labor and delivery were a nightmare. My water broke early, so they decided to induce me with Pitocin. I went from very mild contractions to full out labor in minutes. The labor was 19 hours, which seemed long at the time but turned out to be the shortest one of my three births. My regular doctor was on vacation, so I ended up with his replacement who was rude, yelling at me and saying that I wasn’t trying hard enough to push my baby out. He also smoked a big stinky cigar. That experience made me decide that I would never again have a hospital birth, not that I planned to have any more children anyway after this. But, when she finally came out, I fell instantly in love with my beautiful baby girl. She was bright eyed and alert. She didn’t cry when she came out but just gave a little sigh and settled into my arms while her dad and I gazed at her. She nursed easily, and I took to it easily. We were perfect together.
Because I was a stay-at-home mom, I started making my own baby food, freezing it in ice cube trays to be heated up later. I baked bread and cooked amazing meals. I read to her constantly because I had read about the importance of reading aloud to your children. If I was reading a book of my own, and she was in my arms, I just read my book aloud. I figured it would expand her potential vocabulary. I opened spice bottles for her to smell and gave her different textures to feel. I sang constantly and recited nursery rhymes. I also made lots of noise around her while she slept. I knew that her dad and I were going to be playing music and having people over in the evenings and needed her to sleep through anything. It worked. She, and later on her two brothers, ended up being great sleepers. I was determined to do everything right and kept looking for more and more information about child-rearing.
The sad ending to this story was that when our daughter was born, our dog Topaz laid under her crib and followed her everywhere. She would be in her little baby recliner, and he would lay there with his head on her body. Understandably, it was hard for me to care for a newborn and take Topaz out for his much-needed walks multiple times a day. Paul was working long hours and was too tired to go on walks with the dog when he came home. It was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with both needy living beings. Then, he became overprotective of Jessie Lea. If she was crying, he wouldn’t let me near her, growling and baring his teeth. We had to find another home for him, and fast. In addition to his over-protective nature, he had destroyed our redwood back porch and ate all of our plants down to nubs. We tried very hard but couldn’t find anyone who would take him. Finally, tearfully, we brought him to the shelter. The man working at the shelter instantly fell in love with him and took him to his farm. We were very sad to lose our companion but happy for him that he was in a place where he could run around and have the life he deserved.
Next up, meeting other eccentrics.
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