Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back in the Day

Do any of you remember the 1960's?

I love the term "back in the day."  For me it denotes that "the day" was a special time, distinctly different from today, at least in memory.

I suspect that I have many readers who weren't even born before 1970, so the Sixties are something you can only imagine based on what you've read and seen about it.  Last night I watched a film on Netflix on Demand, (love it!), called "Following Sean."  It was a documentary about a 4 year old boy whom the filmmaker befriended in the Haight Ashbury in 1969.  He had done a movie about the child and his family at the time and was going back to San Francisco to see what had happened to them.

The scenes of the era were very familiar to me, having grown up during that time.  I also lived in the Haight for about a year in the late 1980s, actually on Ashbury a block up from the famous Haight/Ashbury intersection, so I knew the area well.  The little boy was absolutely charming, his parents were free love hippies who lived in an apartment with an ever-changing cast of roommates, and he had the run of the house and the street.  Scenes of him running barefoot down Haight Street were evocative of childhood innocence, but he was anything but.  He talked about smoking and eating "grass," asked why there had to be cops, and seemed much older than his age of "four and a half."

The filmmaker genuinely liked the child and his parents, but he had doubts about whether or not this was the right way to raise a child.   Anyway, the first film "Sean" became a big deal when it came out in 1969, and the filmmaker left the Haight, (without regret), to pursue his career.

What struck me about the whole thing is how romanticized the Sixties have become to many people.  The filmmaker seemed to recognize that it wasn't as wonderful as people made it out to be, but even he had a hard time escaping the memories of it.

At one point he said to the grown up Sean that the people "back then" wouldn't have approved of some of the things Sean was doing, (namely working to make a living).  Sean's response was, "How many people really lived that lifestyle?"  His point was that at the time most of the nation was going along with their regular lives, making a living and taking care of their families.  They weren't living in communes and practicing open marriages and giving grass-laced baked goods to their kids.

It was the first time I'd seen a film that addressed that aspect of the era.  For me and my family, our lifestyles weren't so different from what they would have been in the fifties. We went to church on Sunday in frilly dresses with gloves and hats, my father worked, my mother stayed home, we had square meals and wore flannel jammies, and played Monopoly when we couldn't play outside.  We lived our regular lives whle all of this chaos was going on around us.  If anything our lives were negatively affected by Sean's childhood world, crazy people like the Manson family were roaming around, the Zodiac killer was threatening schoolchildren, and we couldn't go to our local park because the stoners had taken it over. 

Since that time I've met many baby boomers who were teenagers during the Sixties.  They talk about how wonderful it all was and what a great time they had and about how it changed them for the better.   I wonder, now that I'm older, if what they aren't feeling is nostalgia for their youth, for they were young then and their lives were ahead of them.  I still get nostalgic for remnants of my teenage years, a song will come on the radio, or I'll see an old movie I enjoyed then.  It does make me feel like those were very good times.  Of course, they weren't, the economy was a mess, we had gas lines, and cold war threats, and our own group of serial killers and nutcases. 

In a previous post I mentioned having the revelation that all of the stupid things I'd done when I was young weren't because I was "stupid," I'd done them because I was young.  I think the same phenomenon is at work here. People romanticize their youth, they forget about the bad, and only focus on the wonderful times they had.

The saddest part of the movie for me was the struggle that grown-up Sean was facing.  He seemed to be a very good and decent guy, but was struggling to do what he had to do to survive and support his family while still trying to live up to the ideals of his parents.  It was an impossible task, but he seemed to be approaching it with a lot of love, and doing the best he could.  I respected him a lot for that, for not giving up on what he felt was the right thing to do.

So, how does this apply to quilting?  It doesn't and I don't even want to stretch some analogy to make it apply.  I just thought it was interesting how we all view and deal with our world, as we find it.  And I suppose you could say that it does apply to our artistic pursuits as well.  Finding that space inside you where you can enjoy the past and your experiences for what they were, and where you can learn lessons from the less enjoyable experiences, is an important part of growing as a person and an artist.

I'm actually working on a project right now so I'm going to get back to it.  Hopefully, I'll have something really quilting-oriented to share in a day or two.

In the meantime,

Happy Stitching!



Linda said...

I was a teenager during the 60's and my family was much like yours. The "hippy" group was not the norm, but the fringe. We have fringe groups today also. After talking to a friend who was a teen during World War II, I know that there were fringe groups then also. As my son often says, "Nostalgia is not what it used to be!"

Michelle said...

Gotta love streaming movies on Netflix! I just went and added Following Sean to my queue.