Malena L. was born in Albany, New York, in 1954, then lived in New York City’s Greenwich Village until she was 8, when her family moved to Woodstock, then a fledgling “art” community, and finally to Bethel, NY.
I remember my parents mortified me at every possible turn. They were, for lack of a better description, Beatniks, and by the time I was 15 that affectation was well past its sell-by date. I remember watching an Audrey Hepburn movie where a whole bunch of Beatniks did some weird dance in an underground cafe and I shrank from the screen, thinking “They are just like my parents.”
My dad carried bongos with him everywhere and my mother smoked long white cigarettes out of a long black holder. They wore socks with their sandals. They both painted and my mother sculpted – usually something that emphasized someone’s genitals. I couldn’t have other kids over because – well, it was embarrassing. Yet there was something stiff and “old” about my parents. Just kind of worn out.
In the summer I was 15, word came of the big arts festival and it seemed all my favorite musicians would be there. I was thrilled. Excited beyond belief. But in some fit of puritan pique, my folkie dad decided we couldn’t go because there was something tainted about the commercialism. So we were going to go to Maine’s Mt. Desert Island for that week.
The morning we were supposed to leave, the whole areas was closed by the New York State police and the local sheriff’s. I took my bicycle out to the main road and watched the mostly college and older kids come streaming in. I was dressed in brown shorts, a white shirt, and low white tennis sneakers. Some guy threw me a strand of turquoise and red love beads.
He was handsome, wild looking – like a wolf-man, but good looking. He grinned and waved and gave the peace sign as the car whose hood he was on disappeared heading toward “the farm,” Max Yasgur’s place.
When I got back home, my dad and mom were making bread. My dad smiled and said, “Watching them hep cats go listen to their music, hey sugar?” Something had changed. It wasn’t their music and their flower power or their beads. Those things were mine, too.
My parents were good people, just behind the times like so many oldsters then. They weren’t agile. And the times were changing very, very fast.
I wrote this for my daughter and her children. I was young once, kids!