Far out! Outta sight! These were the first words out of my mouth when the editors of The Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s and ‘70s asked me to join them in reading excerpts from the anthology at this year’s Story Circle Network Conference in Austin, Texas. Although I wanted to give voice to my story, I never imagined sharing the spotlight with the editors as they read excerpts from their and others’ stories and poems. Groovy!
On the day of the reading, I joined the editors and conference attendees for lunch inside a packed Highland Lakes Ballroom at the Wyndham Garden Hotel. I waited with bated breath, suspended like a trapeze artist somewhere between the lively chatter and the noisy clatter of dishes. But when Jude Whelley, SCN president, approached the podium, the room became silent.
We quickly gathered in a semi-circle adjacent to the podium—each of us sporting an outfit indicative of the times. Kate Farrell—dramatically clad in all black and donning a Basque beret—took us into a deep, dark Victorian mansion and made us wonder about the mystery behind Werner Erhard and the est movement.
A colorfully dressed Linda Joy Myers told how she stripped down as the good Baptist girl who learned to expose and appreciate her female body as a model in her college art class.
Amber Lea Starfire —whimsically dressed in a tie-dyed shirt—revealed the capricious young woman who journeyed to the Altamont concert and floated among the stars hoping to set her spirit free.
And there I was—Amber’s tie-dyed twin and reluctant hippie—boldly embracing the September wind as I challenged the status quo and grappled with the changing season of my life.
I watched as the editor’s stories captivated the audience and catapulted it to that pivotal era when women changed everything from their hairdos, makeup, shopping habits, and husbands to their ideas about life in general. Although the times have changed since the ‘60s and ‘70s, I noticed that one thing has not changed: Women are thirsty—thirsty for authentic, retrospective stories from that era that reveal our unspoken, intimate secrets and share our most heartfelt confessions. Their thirst humbled me, and I hoped that my story would somehow quench their thirst.
When I approached the podium, I took a deep breath and began reading my story. As I did, I glanced out across the room; women were sharing my tears, gasping in disbelief, and nodding affirmatively. I knew my story was not only striking a chord with the audience, but also satisfying its thirst. My own emotions grew; and without warning, I suddenly felt inexplicably connected with the women in the audience. It was a deep connection and camaraderie that I’d not felt since that September day in 1971 when I joined other women in my first peaceful campus demonstration. What a trip!
So if you’re thirsty, I invite you to put on your tie-dyed t-shirt and bell-bottom jeans; grab your wire-rimmed glasses; pick up the anthology; and join us for a long drink of authentic retrospection.