Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"I feel I can survive no matter what happens. I absolutely find the most peaceful place in the garden, picking wild berries, talking to the wildlife. The summer solstice parties were always a blast. I've lived in a school bus, a teepee, a canvas house, and a van down by the river, before I was 12 . . . "

--Judith, self-described "tie-dye-diaper baby" recalling her childhood with hippie parents, June 2004

"One evening at the commune, the grownups took Quaaludes or mescaline or something, and they all ended up in a big horny, writhing, drugged-out mass on the living room floor. At some point, my mom says she heard an angry little throat-clearing sound. They looked up, and I was standing in the doorway, fists on my hips, glaring at them. ‘What exactly do you think you are all DOING?' I yelled."

--Berkeley writer Sara Beach from her article "Curse of the Hippie Parents," August, 2001

Memories return the heart to its origins where new beginnings are made. In the Six of Cups the remembrances of childhood are distorted by an adult escape from innocence. Innocence is an experience hard to recapture after innocence is gone and whether or not childhood was experienced pleasurably or painfully. As in the origins of the Greek world, Titans populate the origins of our lives. It is difficult to return and not shrink again from the same large gods whose seemingly capricious offers of threat and comfort parented us into conscious existence.

Children, it turns out, are love's instruments of cultural war. They are projected upon by parents and refine these projections as they connect with their young, and ultimately adult, peers. What the baby boomers had to excess was peer culture, one that swamped all messages from above and that, in its own projection, formed a collective shame around shame itself. As flower "children" they attempted to embody the experience of a playful sexuality, one they hoped could resemble and build upon the seemingly ingenuous, guileless, and exploratory qualities of childhood remembrance. At times it succeeded but, as noted above, origins are always distorted by the adult escape from innocence.

What then did hippies project onto their children from the emotional context of their own childhoods? As Sarah Beach writes, some hippy parents like her own "eschewed the teaching of Benjamin Spock and went for a more anarchic, Fellini-esque parenting approach." And at times it went too far, almost to a point where there was no distinction between the child and the adult child. "It's great that you shouldn't feel bad about your body," said one grown child of hippie parents, "but the flip side was to go naked all the time and to have no privacy." In Chelsea Cain's book of essays, Wild Child: Growing Up in the Counterculture, Elizabeth She writes that "freedom" for her was freedom to "fuck my siblings or drink screwdrivers until we puked. And there was nowhere, after I developed breasts, that I was safe." Of those grown children who now complain about their hippie childhoods, two grievances stand out: a lack of personal privacy or parental boundaries, and parents who were deeply involved in sex and drugs, who were frequently stoned or who would couple and re-couple in a round of crushes and relationships that mimicked the social antics of a school playground - only they involved breaking commitments entwined with the responsibilities of parenting.

But there are many fond remembrances among Counterculture offspring, those who recall happily the pleasure of running naked through the forest, who found in communal living a legion of parents and mentors who cared for them, who cherished their parents' commitment to values of peace, harmony, and spiritual awareness, who felt secure, sometimes secure enough to rebel against their hippie parents. For these parents Dr. Spock was prescient. That at the age of 70 the doctor was happy to be arrested for protesting the Vietnam War seemed a badge of his solidarity with the kind of vigorously thoughtful, questioning, and defiant young adults he hoped children might become. Ultimately, it is not an issue of whether hippie parenting was good or bad. The question is: what comprises good parenting? Families at risk for child abuse and neglect inhabit every generation. An emotionally austere approach to parenting is as likely to produce child abuse as a sybaritic, unsupervised parenting style is to produce child neglect. Parenting is a vocation. Some adults emerge from their childhood innocence able to manage the dreamy reckonings of the Six of Cups and the compelling origins embodied in the lives of their children. Some do not.