I asked the question to myself frequently, pretty much daily, while I was raising my kids. “How do I explain this to my kids?” There were times I just couldn’t explain it, and there were times I didn’t want to explain stuff. Other times, I’d attempt to explain, but the kids may or may not have listened.
“How Do I Explain This To My Kids?” is the title of the memoir I’ve been working on for more years than I even care to admit. It’s what I consider the FINAL title. It’s been called stuff like, “Stressed Out Single Mom’s Journey to Sanity,” or “Day in the Life of a Stressed Out Single Mom.” But the one thing that’s constantly on my mind throughout my journey to sanity was the question. How do I explain this to my kids? It could be something as simple as a question from my son Stevie when he was five. “Mommy, where does the ocean end?” And I’m trying to figure out how to answer that. We lived in Newport, Oregon at the time on the Oregon coast, and I thought about it for a few moments before I said, “The other side of the world, in China!” Then he asked, “China? Where’s China?” It is very, very far away.
That’s all I could say at the moment. As the kids got older, I constantly questioned my ability to be the best mother I could, which is why I constantly asked myself how do I explain this to my kids? How do I explain all of my financial struggles because their father was not helping at all? I didn’t explain it, because I didn’t want them to worry about anything like that. I kept it to myself. They’d figure stuff out when they were older. Any decision that I’d make affected my kids directly because I had them all the time 24/7.
Sometimes, or maybe too often, my past affected the decisions I made. It’s weird how that happens. I grew up in San Francisco during the ’60’s and 70’s right near the Haight Ashbury. I witnessed the changes in people, including my own parents in the 1960’s. My parents moved to San Francisco from Chicago in 1962 when I was barely five years old. They never looked back. The hippies were the “good people” in my view, the ones who danced and twirled to music in Golden Gate Park across the street from the flat where we grew up, and the ones who were kind to us kids in the neighborhood. We’d get free cotton candy and balloons, and these people called the “Diggers” would make sure everyone in the neighborhood received free dinners, didn’t matter who you were or where you came from. It was a world where peace and love really existed — before the runaways from all over the United States decided to migrate to the Haight Ashbury and it became a big cult thing. But what really destroyed Haight Street was the hard drugs and too many people who, though they fancied themselves to believe in true peace and love, did not really believe that. I actually remember the funeral on Haight Street. The old Haight Street supposedly “died” some time in 1968, not long after the summer of love. It was a sad event.
The original hippies were “beatniks,” mostly creative folks with a beautiful mindset. Yes, they all smoked pot, but that wasn’t a big deal to any of us. They also worked hard for their causes, and most of them had some sort of day job to support their art, whether it was music, writing poems or stories, making beautiful art. You name it. They weren’t just dirty hippies sitting around being lazy. Whenever I hear someone say this, I cringe.
The problem is, I saw the hippies as the good people and the authoritative people as being bad, except maybe those cops from the Park Police station who looked the other way when the hippies smoked pot, like no big deal. They didn’t start a riot or arrest hippies. They actually looked out for everyone in the neighborhood. Yes, these police existed back then. I don’t know where they are now because in some parts of the United States, they weren’t good even then. It was like we lived in this beautiful bubble that everyone hoped would never burst. And one part of me, though I was a child then, never left.
One part of me still believes that in my heart, a bit of it still exists. Could that be why my two sons are Dead Heads? I didn’t raise them to be. It just happened. How do I explain THAT to my kids?