The result of too much pot, alcohol and too little parental supervision in a small un-enlightened KY town. During my high school years, my mom worked for the NIH, traveling around the country as did her mom, Granny Boo, before her. She provided good income, but was not there to impart her great wisdom and keep me from coming to some pretty erroneous conclusions about life and how it should be handled.
My father, our primary caretaker during that time, was a lovely dear gentle soul who disappeared into TV and bourbon every night. If you are going to have a parent who drinks too much, my dad was the one to have. EVERYONE loved my father. My mother even married him twice. He never got angry, never raised his voice. Even today, when people in Winchester talk about my father, including my friends from high school, there is real affection and sadness in their voices. But he couldn’t live without alcohol and it killed him in 1987 at the age of 59.
If there is a tragedy in my life, that was it. I am so sorry my boys will never know R.T. He would have enriched their lives and they his. Praise heaven I still have my mother. Even if she drives me completely insane, my boys are crazy about her and she them. I’m writing this so that, when she moves here and I want to kill her and/or myself, I can be reminded why I thought it was such a good idea. And if anyone EVER says we drive each other crazy because we are so much alike, I will have to take you out with me. [Please don’t tell her I said this, but the truth is, I’m crazy about her, too. She is an exceptional human being. I still need her wisdom today. In some ways, more than ever. And I am like her. Just those exceptional traits, of course.]
The completely insane thing is I still made straight As in high school… due more to the quality of the education than to my smarts. I was one of those kids who got to college with a 3.96 GPA unable to write a sentence grammatically correct. I couldn’t even define the word grammar. I didn’t know what values were. I didn’t know anything at all about life. I couldn’t even roll a good joint! Other people did it for me.
Since I was the primary female at home in those years, I did learn how to clean a bathroom, follow a recipe, wax a floor, bark an order. I could play my guitar, bring a tear to yer eye sangin’ a pretty country song and damn I was funny. These last "skills" leading to my useless B.S. in Theatre Arts. Perfect: a drama queen with credentials tossed out into the world with not a single other tool. I knew there were secrets to living a good life but I didn’t know any of them. You know that feeling that there is something else going on, but you don’t know what it is? I had that feeling all the time.
In college, unbelievably, I started out as a math major. I loved math. I loved geometry, algebra, beginning calculus. Because, in math, no matter what else was happening around you or to you, problems always had a solution. And each problem had the same solution every time. Otherwise, life’s mysteries were endless. During my first month in this completely foreign setting (a small liberal arts college outside the big city of St. Louis, MO), a fellow numbskull pointed out a student and said, "That’s a Jew." This stumped me. I asked, "What’s a Jew?" The numbskull said, "Anyone who’s name ends in Berg or Stein." I said, "Well, huh." Great. Two idiots teaching each other a thing or two.
My first year in college was also the year of the great influx of Indian students. I had never seen anything more strange in my life than all those Indian men wearing long dresses around campus. I was completely mystified and intrigued by them. These guys weren’t Negroes. They were a different color and had different hair. I knew Negroes. In my KY high school, we were still having race riots
in the 70s. Not uncommon, I guess, but utterly pathetic. As a hippie and the child of a liberated
mother, I sided with the blacks. To torment my white racist classmates,
I would announce I was going to adopt black babies. This pledge forgotten immediately, of course. ooooo-wheeeee-ooooooo.
Of course I drank and smoked pot! They were the only tools I had to deal with an overwhelming sense of anxiety. What was I supposed to do with all this input????? Through some miracle of circumstance or luck or fate, I haven’t touched the stuff in almost 19 years. What a relief.
Through some other miracle of circumstance, luck or fate, here I am living in Costa Rica in a big affordable house overlooking the valley with my adoring brilliant husband (IF he adores me, THEN he’s brilliant), two remarkable teenagers and a great dog. If you knew me growing up, none of this was ever remotely a possibility. I feel like I’ve been led down a garden path. To a garden.
I am so completely grateful to be living here now. We have actually escaped the rat race. Because we did it, I know it’s possible for anyone to do. Even by accident and even with no money. There are trade-offs to be made. Not sacrifices because a sacrifice is giving up something better for something lesser. Living here, like we live, is not that. I can’t really tell anyone else how-to because how we ended up here is still kind of a mystery. I can tell you we’re not leaving until some other miracle leads us down the next path. Because these are our good old days.