Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

[this is gonna be a long one—bear with me….]

As the grandkid gets ready to leave for college next week [whoa—tons of mixed emotions there], I’ve found myself thinking about my youth. I am a Baby Boomer—in fact I’m pretty much right in the middle of the boom. We were a generation of dreamers. Some of those dreams came true and some got crushed in the dust of the reality of the time…. My 16th summer has come back to mind mostly. News coverage of several 40th anniversaries has brought it all back. I was “on the cusp” of a lot of things that summer: adulthood, responsibility, discovery, sexuality… It seems as if the country was on the cusp too; but of very disparate things. A lot would change at the end of the volatile decade, and that summer was indicative of that.

It was the summer of man’s first landing and walk on the moon. Not only US citizens, but the world was glued to the television coverage of this unbelievable accomplishment. For a brief moment we were all unified in our awe of what human beings are capable of achieving. I vividly remember watching with friends during my 16th birthday party, all of us dumbstruck by this new technology. Today’s teens take computers, cell phones and the like for granted. All of which came about, in part, because of space exploration.

It was also the summer of the Stonewall riots—the start of today’s gay rights movement. Some very brave individuals decided enough was enough; they were not going to be brutalized, marginalized and hide in the closet anymore. Can you imagine the courage that took at that time?! But we would not come as far as we have were it not for them—and others who carried on the fight in those early years. We still have a long way to go, but it now seems possible….

It was the summer of the Manson murders too. Charlie and his tribe were gonna bring about “Healter Skelter” [their spelling, not the Beatles’], a massive race war. On the night of August 8th, Manson sent several “family” members to a home on Cielo Drive in L.A. to enact revenge and set his bizarre plan in motion. Actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and 4 others were brutally murdered. The next night it was Leno LaBianca and his wife. The entire nation shared L.A.’s fear.

This coming weekend will mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition—3 Days of Peace and Music.” Poor Max Yasgur had no idea what was about to occur on his dairy farm in sleepy Bethel, NY! Around 186,000 tickets were sold beforehand and organizers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up. In the end, estimates were that nearly half of a million hippies showed up for what became a free concert. I was deemed too young to go, but my future husband was there. He was 22 and fresh out of photography school (we would not meet til 3 years later); however, he had no pictures of any of the 3 days he spent in the rain and sun listening to some of the most amazing artists in rock music history. He was too busy “grooving.” I teased him about that—a lot. But Woodstock came to symbolize a lot for my generation—a generation still deeply scarred by the war in Vietnam, which was at its height that year. Peace and love really meant something to us. Deep down it still does.

When you look at all of these events, it’s pretty daunting. So much happened during my teen years that contributed a lot to who I am today—the good, the bad and the ugly. We were a generation of idealistic dreamers—and that’s a good thing. It is our dreams that make us human, I think.


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