My parents afforded their children a good childhood. By Mid American 60’s standards my sister and I were well fed, we had clothes to wear, all be it not the clothes we might have chosen, we took family vacations, participated in sports, went to movies and sporting events, and generally had normal rural Midwest children’s lives. Apart from the daunting expectations of perfection and the occasional well deserved “lickin”, we were certainly not abused. What more can a parent do to get their children off to a good start? More than that, we had fields, streams, crayfish, rock quarries, corn fields, tree houses, farms, and pretty much the run of the land, lasting all through adolescence, our stomping grounds from sun up until the sounding of the 6:00 whistle signally supper time. All long gone now, taken, rather stolen from future childhoods by urban and suburban sprawl, replaced by “McMansions”, strip malls, and video reality. Poplar Creek is still there, and accessible enough, but lacking are the trails, rafts, and forts, and any evidence really of children doing what children once did. So are virtual lives still good lives? It would seem that the children might be all right, the jury is still out on that count.
Despite the hardy, healthy, rambunctious childhood I was given, somewhere around fourteen years of age I suppose I started heading south, down the path that was nearly the undoing of Pinocchio. Cigars, drink, and donkey ears. I became what must have been a parents worst nightmare. May they someday, in this world or the next should we be so lucky as to meet there, forgive me my transgressions. And so came the end of my innocence in or around the year 1972. By 1974 and 1975 I was smokin’ the ganja, dabbling in more serious intoxicants, drinking when and where I could, carousing into the wee hours, listening to psychedelic music, and spending more and more nights away from home, all culminating in spontaneous trips to the Upper Peninsula and finally, 1979 and the westward hitch hike from which I never really returned. The fools headlong dance from the known world, over the precipice into the world of mystery, adventure, and unknown perils and pearls, knapsack and little dog in tow. Leaving broken hearts and dashed expectations in a self indulgent wake. I honestly had no idea anyone cared that much. I have few regrets, broken hearts top the list.