January 26, 2017

I am a boomer. My transition from being a child to early adolescents was a tumultuous time.

Our generation became a revolution that rocked the world. It was intoxicating and yet frightening. It was the perfect storm.

From 1962 to 1969 I passed through many of life’s stages before settling into something recognizable for me to cope with.

For the most part, my life experiences was limited to what I was exposed to at home and on the school ground. My parents didn’t burden me with world events that I was not mature enough to understand. I felt safe and I had a good childhood.

I was only six when I overheard my parents talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis and bomb shelters. Although I didn’t understand a thing, I picked up on the seriousness and fearful tone in their voices. I wondered why others would want to hurt us, and asked my dad if we were going to build a bomb shelter also?

I entered elementary school where ‘Duck and Cover’ air rade drills were conducted on a regular basis in case of an atomic-bomb attack. They were like fire drills only we got under our desks and covered our heads, as if that would do anything!

My world was first rocked in July of 1963 after a devastating boat accident involving my family. I fought to live, followed by a long road to recovery. It was 11 months before I took my first steps again. It was a lonely time as I spent most days in a wheelchair inside my house.

Unbeknownst to me, mounting medical bills threatened my parents with financial ruin as they fought to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. Again they did not burden me with the trials of adult responsibilities. However the financial burden proved too heavy and lawsuites were filed. I was repeatedly questioned by men in suites that had no experience speaking to a seven year old. The whole process was overwhelming and beyond my understanding, so my parents decided to settle out of court and be done with it. They just wanted things back the way they were before the accident, but that would never happen.  We had entered the roller coaster years, change was inevitable, and nothing would ever be the same.

1963 was also the year President Kennedy was assassinated, and TV brought the live drama of the catastrophic event into our living room.

As the 60’s progressed, the intersection of Civil Rights, and opposition to the Vietnam war, fueled social tension. We watched the massive public unrest unfold on national TV. I was confused by what I saw and heard, but one thing I did understand, is that there were a lot of angry people who wanted change.

In 1968 I turned 12, and Martin Luther King was assassinated. I now knew what that word meant because of my experience with the assassination of President Kennedy. However, I had no idea of the impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area and across the Nation. I grew up in Oakland California, a very liberal diverse area. My parents were not racist and I was too young and too white to have experienced bigotry and discrimination.

My elementary principal appeared in the doorway of my 6th grade class. He spoke breifly to my teacher, then turned and dismissed our class. He told us to go directly home. Martin Luther King had been shot, and a state of emergency had been called.

There was no time for questions, and certainly no answers as to why. It was the unknown impact on  civil unrest that fueled the chaos.

I had no idea how to get home. My teachers didn’t know my mother was unreachable. They didn’t know of her battle with depression or of the traumatic brain injury she suffered in the boat accident. They didn’t know, and they certainly wouldn’t understand, because neither could I.  All I knew is that my independent, strong, beautiful mom was lost and unreachable. It was a very scary time for a 12 year old entering adolescents.

People became more vocal as freedom of speech became a cause on University campuses. My grandmother experienced the UC Berkeley protests first hand from her second story window on the corner of University and Shattuck in Berkeley.

A counterculture was forming….sort of a modern bohemianism that challenged traditional codes of behavior.

Peter, Paul and Mary opened my heart to folk music but it was the British Invasion that sealed the deal for me. Like many other pre-teens, I was hooked. Pop and rock ushered me into my place in the boomer generation. As adolescents emerged so did a sense of a new identity and independence.

Once again my personal world was rocked in 1968 with the first suicide attempt of my mother. It was my brother’s sixteenth birthday.

Music was our generations voice to the world. It was the medium used to express opposing ideas, and address current issues. In a world of political turmoil, music brought our generation together and united our causes.

This counterculture and new wave of music was exciting and tantalizing and it had a dark side. It was full of rebellion, defiance and disrespect. The counterculture rejected our parents traditional values, and embraced drug exploration and the sexual revolution.

I was a young boomer coming to age on the fringes of this countercultural hippi revolution. I was  too young and nieve to be fully immersed in sex, drugs and rock and roll. I was too young for Woodstock and the Summer-of-Love. I was to young too find my voice concerning feminism, civil rights, Vietnam, abortion, and birth control. I wasn’t a participant in the hotbed of anti-establishment activity in SF, Berkeley or Oakland, but I was influenced by all of it and I bear the scars of the choices I made!

The 60’s helped chisel me into who I am today. In 7 short years I grew up, but it would be years before I settled on something recognizable that I could cope with, and in the aftermath I found my voice.

It is now 2017, and once again troubling times are brewing. I make a conscious effort to make sure my words are truthful, respectful, encouraging and that they speak life into others, no matter if their views are the same as mine or not. My words will be reflected in my actions, and tapered with love. This is the voice I want.


5 thoughts on “Tumultuous Times

  1. Shelley I was unaware of the pain you were suffering. I never knew, you lived with these images and thoughts you hid them well. I do remember your leg from the accident, but I did not know about your mother. How completely heartbreaking. You know my parents divorced and my mom tried something. (A story for another day). I send you my love and thank you for sharing. Marianne


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