So, we made it, we survived! Is that all we want? Of course not, not for most of us. We want the life we were denied as a child! We want and need to rewrite the stories of our lives!
I suspect I’ve been doing that since I was about 18, and went off to college. I decided right as I arrived for my freshman year, that unlike the “responsible leader” I’d been in high school, that all the adults loved, that it was time to just be me, to figure out who and what that was! And to have some fun…fun you hear! I decided not to join anything, not to hold any offices, just to “BE” , whatever that meant! It soon meant dating, laughing with girlfriends in the dorm, sleeping through- and subsequently dropping classes to avoid failing them! I was a mess. But I worked two jobs, and didn’t bother my folks, sometimes I think they forgot all about me, that was fine with me, I was busy. It was the 60’s , a time of unrest, civil rights, the Vietnam war. I was a flower child wanna be. I dressed the part, bell bottoms, leather fringe vest and hat! LOL Sometimes it would be a peasant skirt and
I learned to play the guitar, and let Peter , Paul, and Mary, and Sweet Baby James Taylor speak to my soul! At night, my roommate and I would listen to “The Sea” by Rod McKuen.
By day, I read the Prophet, and made friends with other concerned citizens of the world.
We marched in protest, and sang songs of peace and harmony like, “All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance”. Amazingly I didn’t get into drugs, it was such a part of the culture. But I was scared to give up that control of myself, I was enjoying being in charge for the first time!
I even enjoyed my many jobs! Working in the cafeteria and flirting with my table full of boys was fun and I didn’t spill too much on them! In those days, we had to go early and set the tables with white cloths , plates, and silverware! Dinner was family style, so here I was carrying a huge tray full of bowls of steaming food across the cafeteria to this table of six guys! The six girls I had at the next table obviously didn’t count as much! The boys weren’t my kind of guys either, they were the cool, slick, popular guys. But we became friends. At the end of the year, when we left our little families behind, they presented me with a golden spoon of appreciation–one they had swiped from the cafeteria and spray painted gold! LOL
By the end of my sophomore year, I learned I wouldn’t be allowed back in the Fall, that basically I had flunked out, I did not have enough quality points to go on! I found out from another student, a guy who knew me well, who was in the same fix! I remember we were standing in line outside the registrar’s office, in the old “Main” building built in 1838, where I had slept as a freshman, when Mike said , “so you coming to summer school with me?” Ah, “no, I guess not. My folks are actually on the way to pick me up, and I’ve got a job all lined up to start Monday!” Mike looked at me, his mouth dropped open, and he said , “you’re leaving us?!” I said with a laugh, “well, I’ll be back in September.” And that rat…he burst my bubble by saying, “I don’t think so. I think you won’t be allowed back in if you don’t come to summer school and make 2 “A”s. He said he knew that was true, because we were in the same classes and had made the same grades and that was true for him also! I was like…”No, I don’t think so, I’m not in that much trouble.” Total oblivion! But, just in case, I took myself up to the kindly registrar, and asked her to check my “quality points” whatever they were, and see if I was required to come to summer school if I wanted to return in the Fall !? She slowly perused my records, took a deep breath, and softly said “I’m sorry but that’s true…and you ‘d have to come both semesters and make 3 A’s and one B at the least! Your chances don’t look good young lady.”
Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it, I’d been playing around for two years, having a good ole time, and now I was going to flunk out! I certainly didn’t have the money for summer school, my Mom and Dad were on the way to get me, I was all packed, the room was clean, I had just turned in my key! Full blown panic set in, and my parents walked in just as I lost it in a pile of hysteria! I’m sure neither of them had ever seen me cry like that, I doubt I’d experienced it. I knew Dad would kill me when he found out, not because he wanted me in college, but mad that he’d come 3 1/2 hours to get me and I didn’t want to come home! Mom would be so disappointed and embarrassed! What had I done! What would I do? So I just cried , hysterically! I heard my Dad ask my Mom, “what in the hell is going on? Is she pregnant or something?! I could have smacked him! That was so “not me”. He left, and I finally got to tell Mom, who wasn’t sick yet by the way, (that happened my Junior year.) Oops, I spilled the beans! Yes Virginia, there was a Junior year! But my totally playful days were over! One of my Aunts who I was very close with, loaned me the money to go to summer school. Scratching their heads, my folks left, Dad amazingly quiet. I was shocked, and happy to see them gone! Whew! But I knew I had to study! And I did, and I wrote papers, and so forth and so on! And I got straight “A”s just to prove I could!
That summer, I actually translated one of my favorite songs, “Yesterday , When We Were Young” into French, and sang and played it on the guitar for my class project! Now that was beyond even my beliefs. My French teacher had me in her class for three years, she’d never seen such initiative. Perhaps I was more used to having a “gun to my head” then I knew, to make me perform. My professors were shocked at the tests I took and the papers I wrote! It was a small school, 500 students total, so they all knew me. What they didn’t know was that I really could think if I had to! LOL I did all that while coming down with and suffering with mononucleosis at the same time! I was sick as a dog. Which was probably a good thing. I’d drag myself to class, then crash back in bed, read and write, and sleep! The summer passed in a total haze of fever, depression, and writing! I was all alone in a two bedroom suite while my other three roommates were home swimming I imagined. I knew my own roommate was working as a camp counselor up in New Hampshire, where she had the fifth freedom! The freedom to go nude! Every fall, when this religion major, all A student, came back to school, I, Helen, had to civilize her! LOL
The nurse was worried about my being so sick, and alone, and she brought me meals and drinks at the worst of it! Can you believe it! Only in a small, formerly all girls school! And of course I survived, and thrived …again!
I wish I could tell you I kept those stellar grades up, but no. I did better, but I was still having too much fun to be too serious about school. I did manage a solid B average those last two years. My roommate would get so mad at me, because she would work all along, study hard and yes, she got all “A”s. I would work and play, and then stay up all night reading and cramming for a test the next day, get an A on it, just in time to make up for my irregular attendance. I had friends coaching me, making me exercise, the old song…”i get by with a little help from my friends” keeps running through my head !
Like I said, I worked in the cafeteria, or the soda fountain in the student center, and off campus at the federal building answering the phone and making friends there too! One semester I lived off campus with a family who had a daughter my age, who had cerebral palsy, and was wheelchair bound. In return for caring for her in the bath and getting her in and out of bed, I received room and board and a scholarship to school. She and I had a lot of fun together, going to events together, and playing. But riding the bus back and forth to school was for the birds, I was always missing them. So I learned to go to the day students parking lot where there were drivers with cars, and beg for rides. I ended up dating several of the boys who gave me rides! It was a good way to make friends! LOL As much as I loved my new friend, I missed living on campus with all my friends. So, back I went to the dorms the next Fall.
At the end of my Junior year, one of my best friends from another college nearby thanked me for being such a steady friend with a gift of James Taylor’s and Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”.
I had a work-study scholarship, so I made it. My senior year I met the man I’ve now been married to for almost 41 years! Its hard to believe! After college I started teaching and had to act all grown up. I dealt with Mom and Dad again, and at 28 to 30 went to graduate school in clinical psychology, and made all “A”s. Having one child as well…it seems that I’d somehow grown up. Another child, a serious job with some seriously ill schizophrenics, bipolar, and abusive people; and volunteering at school and at church as well as having a live- in disabled grandparent, my husband’s Dad, kept us so busy, and the years just flew by! Before I knew it, I had followed in my Mom’s footsteps and was disabled with heart disease at age 50! I should have kept swimming, and kept strumming that guitar ! I wonder if life would have been any different, we’ll never know. But I had been too depressed, too responsible, and along came the Royal Red Divas to save me and let me play some more! No wonder I love them so! Besides being great women, we encourage each other to laugh and get back in touch with that inner child who’s been buried under responsibility for a long time.
I wish everybody could have something similar, especially my sweet, but hard working husband, who’s been my caretaker also for almost 13 years now! Good grief! Poor guy! He says I’m worth it, I think he’s amazing myself! He even dedicated a song to me for our anniversary, it’s called “Lady Soul” and he says I’m his lady soul! Now that will get him a kiss!
I am having so much fun taking this musical stroll down memory lane! There are so many songs I loved over the years, I could never include the smallest percentage of them! The kids came along and we had so much fun singing children’s songs that I had learned at day camp as a youngster! My favorite lullaby was “Hush Little Baby” because one of our cousins , Mary Stuart Houchins who was a soap opera star on Search for Tomorrow, recorded it . I had loved it since I was 7 or 8.
I sang it to both babies, Ali and Annie . Later I sang it to my grandchildren.
Liam likes to ride around the neighborhood with me, perched on the arm of my power wheelchair, while we sing at the tops of our voices “Zippity Doo Dah Zippidi ay, my oh my , it’s a beautiful day!” They have brought pure joy into my life, the dark chapters , the abusive ones have faded into the far background.