The sixties had been good to Marlianna. True, she didn’t remember all of it – there had been some very good stuff available and she’d tried it all. But what she did remember vividly was the gut-gasping relief of escaping her home. It had been a study in beige – beige walls, beige furniture, beige carpets and a mother who had faded to beige under the relentless controls of her husband. There had been many rules, and many demeaning jibes, and many hours of silent crying at the hopelessness of life.
And then at the fair’s amusement park, Marlianna met Henry, scrawny, bead wearing, laughing Henry. She had walked out of her house and taken off with Henry in his volkswagon bus. Two other girls and another guy…Tony…she thought, had gone too. There had been rock concerts, panhandling, drugs, music and quite a few more experiences than she had been comfortable with. But she had felt free for the first time in her life. That trumped everything.
And then somehow, laughing Henry had started to take on a few of the less desirable traits exhibited by her father. He wanted to know what she was doing all the time, telling her what she should think, mocking her ideas.
But he had taught her how to leave and so she did.
A little waitressing, some work as a secretary…and then Terry. She’d married Terry and he had never once laughed at her or tried to tell her what to think. In return, she loved him, raised kids with him, bought a house (nothing beige) with him, rescued dogs with him, and then despaired alone when he died.
And here she was in the sixties again – her own sixties. Too young to be old. Too old to be young. Not terribly keen on knitting and having “Grandma” as her only identity. More afraid of fading into an older version of her mother. Trying on this new identity of being alone.
“So what do we do now?” she asked Roscoe the rescue. The German shepherd mix barked encouragingly. She thought about the sights she had seen in Henry’s company, or only half-seen because they were all so stoned. She remembered believing she had painted glasses and moustaches on the faces of Mt. Rushmore during a “trip” that had not involved much physical movement.
And suddenly, Marlianna wondered what the amazing wonders would look like when her eyes and mind were clear. When she was neither loved nor bullied but just herself, alone.
She called her daughters to tell them she was going on a road trip. Then, she piled herself and Roscoe into her Honda and with Willie Nelson playing, pulled out of the driveway and headed to points unknown.
She was free. She was alone. She was herself only.
It wasn’t too bad at all.