In the beginning, there were four parents and 5 kids living at home, with two others out on their own. As far back as memory allows, I see these young families struggling to make ends meet, days at the beach, baskets of sandwiches, with kids laughing, running in and out of the waves, lips blue with cold and shivers.
As time went on, Jack found his place at the bars and his new best friend, the drink de jour. Freddie found his place with another man. Jan found his wanderlust and disappeared for 5 years.
That left two women with 4 kids and no money. They went to nursing school together while working and trying to keep food on the table and a lid on these kids who were on the edge of puberty. The strength of these two women is still a wonderment to me.
In days before the term ADHD, Arline would chase Dennis, threatening him with a flip flop or a phone, or a spatula, whatever was close at hand. Cynthia would sit on her bed, smoking, lamenting about the latest antic of her then boyfriend, future husband. I thought it was so cool that she could smoke at home. She was so grown up in my eyes. I remember getting a few hand-me-down clothes from her once. My first little tight denim skirt and a shirt with an embroidered cat on the front. Did I ever feel like hot shit walking down the street in that!
Matt decided that he needed to stay with Jack and take care of him, when in reality Matt was only taking care of himself. He built and operated his own radio station out of his bedroom, seriously broadcasting news, weather, and parties with his friends. He did eventually get shut down for hooking into city lines, but he also got a job offer from a large radio station that said "When you're old enough, give us a call."
I left home for a week with a friend of mine and slept in various people's cars and apartments in San Francisco. I loved being young and free, in a city that opened its arms to everyone. The music was everywhere, the love, palpable, the dreams of a new generation in its infancy.
I got a tap on the shoulder in the form of a realization that I needed to go home and back to school. Arline was waiting there with my mother, always a best friend and support.
We all made it through those tough times, moving off in different directions, starting families, and turning out as responsible, loving, adults that still carry around a bit of baggage from those days and a few trials of our own making.
After waiting years for a lung transplant that never came, Cynthia could wait no longer and died yesterday. My heart breaks for her family and although I know she is beyond the suffering of this life, it makes me sad.