I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I find early Sunday morning, when I first wake up, that I've been spending several nights exploring the corridors of memory, getting ready to write over here at the Eye again. It is amazing to me how much of those years is just... gone. Thinking back to the early 1970s should not find so many blanks in my memory. I know I have never had any problem getting a job, but you would think I would remember at least what I did.

In Sacramento, I found a good job at the California Department of Education, which began the next phase of my life. I worked in the main building and remember taking some trips to the office in Los Angeles, because I would drive myself in my little red VW hatchback (the one I bought when getting ready to marry David in Las Vegas). I remember the cherry blossoms on the trees in the beautiful gardens that surround the office in Sacramento, but very little about who I worked for, what I did. Of course I was somebody's secretary, because I was a good one. I could take shorthand and type very fast and accurately (there was no such thing as a computer back then).

When I was first looking for an apartment, I met Sharlene, a fellow employee at the DOE who let Chris and me stay with her and her son Sean in her little apartment for awhile. I was able to get my own place just across from hers, and she would cook for the four of us. Sharlene was a vegetarian and convinced me to give it a try. That's when I stopped eating red meat, and I still don't. Back then I would get really hungry for a hamburger and would go out to Burger King, my favorite, and Chris and I would be satisfied. I remember it didn't take long before I began to appreciate all the flavorful vegetables that had been missing in my diet. Chris also thrived. At least I think he did; I remember no major problems with him during that time.

I was encouraged by my employers to attend night school at a local community college, and since I had no idea how it would be to return to school, I decided to try it. It was amazing to me how much I actually enjoyed it, and I found out two very important things I didn't know about myself: I had an aptitude for both chemistry and journalism. I have a memory of yellow pads on my kitchen table filled with oxidation-reduction reactions,  a very satisfying memory. The other thing I learned was that I was smart. I did well, which surprised me as I thought anybody who had been as stupid in her life choices as I had been was deficient in intelligence.

Before this period in my life, I had never been in a relationship with anybody I wasn't married to. That all changed, as I took advantage of my good looks to attract men, date them, take advantage of them, and then leave them. I relished their vulnerability and got intense satisfaction when they took the bait and then got burned. But even though this was before AIDS, it was very self destructive behavior that eventually made me very unhappy. I started going to therapy sessions with a woman who showed me I what I was doing, and why.

Chris was entering puberty, and all these years had continued to visit his father and spend the summers with him. I knew he needed some better environment than I was providing him. Derald was really upset that Chris was not bonding during his formative years with any father figure, so I agreed to send Chris to live permanently with his father. The courts would not allow it unless Derald paid his back child support. (I never cared about this money and had set it as low as possible and did not encourage Derald to send it.) Derald had another demand: that I let Chris become part of his family and not have him visit me as it would be harder for him. I agreed.

There was a little of the "30 pieces of silver" guilt that I carried for years over that, because suddenly I came into what was, for me, a lot of money, and freedom from any child rearing, anything at all. Although I would occasionally call my parents, I didn't visit them during this period, I didn't feel any need to be reminded of any of my past life.

One thing I did start doing was to go Sufi dancing in the basement ballroom of a huge old mansion on F Street in downtown Sacramento. It was the home of a hippie commune, around 25 people living and sharing their lives together. After several months of going there to dance and being introduced to the people, I petitioned to join and was accepted. I promptly quit my job, lived on the child support money, and began another chapter in my life as a nomadic hippie. I was in my early thirties, maybe a little old to begin this life, but it was time for me to push my boundaries of who I thought I was.

Don's oldest son had been married to Donna, and she had left her husband and followed me to Sacramento. She also joined the commune, and we became good friends. I learned a lot about her that I never had known before, and vice versa. She and I would eventually leave the commune on a journey of exploration that would bring me to Colorado. But that is for another post.


Whitney Lee said...

It continually fascinates me that most of the incredibly intelligent women I know make very questionable decisions when it comes to men. It's as if one has a direct connection with the other. It doesn't surprise me that you questioned your own intelligence though. I'm glad you discovered that you are smart; it's quite obvious to me!
I am enjoying your story of how you came to be who and where you are. Thank you for the opportunity to share these memories.

Norma Jean said...

It is interesting for me to learn about a part of your life for which I have so little information. I know I come back into your life again soon, but enjoy hearing about the times that are a blank for me. I have always envied your completely different adventures. You are indeed a very lucky person to have had the experiences you have. I love you! Happy 2010 - may the best be yet to come...

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm glad I found your blog in time to be reading this explorations of memory. You've made some very tough and dramatic decisions. Thanks for sharing.

Lucy said...

My sister is also an extremely intelligent person and she has limited memories and apparently our mother just blocked out whatever she hadn't liked in her life. I unfortunately think I remember it all! I wonder what is more disturbing? Write on MacDuff! I await the next chapter!

CiCi said...

Yep, you hippie, drop out. What a life huh. This is so much fun to read your story and compare. I want to find out more.

The Retired One said...

Your life could certainly make a movie.
Such dramatic changes in lifestyles and in life partners and in responsibilities....
it is a fascinating read.
Have you ever considered writing a book?

Far Side of Fifty said...

I knew it! You were a hippie! We all know about all the free love and goings on in those communes. This could get X rated! So you were a love um and leave them kind of gal..interesting. I always wanted to go to California in the late sixties..I had long hair..I just need flowers. Such an exciting era..there will never be another time like it ever..you were over thirty then..I was not yet twenty. I can't wait to read more!!!

Relax and don't try so hard..it will all come back to you... I think we all miss some blocks of time in out lives and later we wonder why in the world we did the things we did...the times we don't remember were not memorable..does that make sense to you? Carry on! :)

Akannie said...

Hey Djan...wow. Just found you and it sounds like you're telling my story...

I'm hooked, since I can only remember bits and pieces of my own. lol

Nice to read you...

Stella Jones said...

So what did your therapist tell you about your promiscuous behaviour? and why did she think you were behaving like that?
Blessings, Star

Leave a Legacy said...

This is so fascinating. I also lived in Calif. in the early 70's and had I been a little older I could see myself joining in the hippie lifestyle. But at age 12 my parents wouldn't let me! To go from Stay at Home mom to single working mother, to hippie in a commune. Clearly not all good times, but such an adventure.