Hatchbacks to Freedom

At four AM this morning I was thinking of my parents.

I was also making a list of things I’d like to do today and wrote both an email and a part of a poem in my head.

But that’s besides the point.

While that grand old laundry list (Where does that phrasal noun come from? Why don’t we say grocery list?) went reaming through my pre-dawn mind I thought of that pseudo-hippie couple in their hatchback, traveling across the country with their dreams and a little dachshund named Max.

My mom’s transgression was dying her dark locks blond and my dad rebelled by growing his wavy hair long. I can see that photograph I’ve looked at so many times in my mind: Mr. and Mrs. on a couch, my Dad’ arm around the her and the little him dog sitting in my mom’s lap. They were stoic and beautiful.

I hold the romanticism of their early life dearly and deeply in my made-up memory. I wasn’t there-the dinner table stories where they’d discuss “discovering Sedona” happened almost two decades after they set out to explore the country. I think about the future stories I will tell. How proud I’ll be to leave out parts that weren’t so glorious and how I’ll do my best to pay attention if my young audience’s eyes are glazing over as I describe for maybe not the first time how I didn’t get off the train when I arrived in Parma, Italy when I was 20.

At 4 am this morning I thought: they were so sweet. I will not be them.

And really, I cannot be the them. I didn’t get married at 21. They were much younger than me when they traveled to California for my dad to pursue his PhD in Philosophy. I’m still unmarried (sorry, Grandma!) and I don’t have a dog. At my age they had two little girls and a mortgage. I rent a room and barely own a car.

When I make parallels between them and me or their generation and our generation I wonder…were the mid-70’s similar to this time? Lots of change, yes. Oil crisis. War hanging in the wind. From the ashes of the student rebellions and protests arose masses of baby boomers (perhaps your parents, too) who needed jobs. We need jobs, or for many (me), better ones that can pay student loans (something incomparable to our parent’s generation).

In the midst of this reflection I stopped resisting that nagging thought of “no, no, no. I will NOT be practical.” I will go to SXSW and dye my hair blond and work fervently on project1979 until I cannot do another Roger Rabbit. That probably will happen (okay, maybe not the blond part and maybe not even the SXSW detail), yes. However, I started getting honest with the natural evolution of life and more importantly that we all just have to do our best to live the days of our transcending youth authentically and humbly. Most of us live our lives, choose our battles, and make children if things work out right. And when we do, will we look at those yellowing pre-kid photos and reminisce about how free we once were?


I’m without conclusions. Are we different than are parents? Does our generation really change the way we turn into “adults” and “face real life”? As things shift, will we raise our families and hold steady jobs while still maintaining an element of freedom in all that we do? Will we catch ourselves saying to children “Back in my day…”?

6 Responses to “Hatchbacks to Freedom”
  1. k.c. says:

    I already say “back in my day”! I think it just comes with parenthood, no matter your age 😉 And that element of freedom is there, it’s just buried under laundry, toys, and mountains of new memories. Every now and then it surfaces and you feel it. Sometimes it’s a song, the specific feel of the weather on a day, or running into someone that brings it back to you, but it doesn’t stay. We are our parents, only different :-/

  2. Anna Keizer says:

    Great post! More and more I notice traits of both my parents in myself. While I once thought I would be mortified by the similarities, now I just smile or laugh in spite of myself… and them. 😉

    • project1979 says:

      I know! We cannot help it, even if we tried. The imprinting of the things they said or how my mother makes tuna salad will always be part of my unconscious!
      Thanks, Anna, for your reply.

  3. Stuart says:

    fantastic post, thankyou. and fantastic replies…yes, could not agree more, we are our parents, only different. as Dad to a 3 and a half year old and a 4 month old, I do get sincere and severe cases of “what did i do with my freedom?” whenever i see old photos of the 19 year old me that met their mother for the first time, or when I talk to the friend who is the girl with whom I thought I´d be getting together with only months before that photo, but it´s all part of my story I suppose. Something to tell C one evening when just him and me go for a drive, and I´ll tell him how my Mum and I used to go for a drive out up by Rabbit Rise, in a car that would barely make the hill despite a run-up, and it will stick in his memory like it will always stay in mine.


    • project1979 says:

      Thanks, Stuart! Recently, I started noticing that so many lovely, quirky things that I do (that may or may not make sense to anyone else) come from my parents who are both lovely and quirky. For a long time I was convinced that I could transcend weirdness. But no-it is part of me and what inevitably will cause my future children to say “MOM!!! That’s so embarrassing.” 😉 Love your writing-looking forward to reading more of it.

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