The last few days have left me pondering somewhat nostalgically on my teens. It was England in the 1970’s. The era of long skirts and oh-so-flared jeans with skinny tops, hot-pants and hippies. I was at the hippie end. They were long hot summers ( of course), days of bare feet and Jesus sandals and for me of a religious, if not spiritual phase which contrasted seomewhat oddly with the urge to escape, rebel and be different. Nights of drinking, smoking and long , intense discussion with like minded souls or wandering from pub to pub in our spread out village pretending to be of legal age. This was long before the days of ID cards. Most of us drank for 2 years then celebrated our 18th birthdays brazenly in the same pub.
My two best friends ( J1 and J2) and I were partners in crime. J1 was often responsible for her, then baby sister and we spent hours skiving off school and hanging out in slightly seedy coffee shops in the nearby town with baby in tow. Both of us were surprisingly,still focused on getting our A levels and pieces of paper and then getting the bell outta’ Dodge.But we were disillusioned with school, or at least I was and we seemed to do a pretty good job of avoiding it. J2 was more of the ‘good girl’, she conformed more, at least outwardly but nevertheless as all BF’s should be was always available as an alibi and prepared to lie through her teeth in defence of us. These skills were drawn upon more than once as you might imagine.
Honestly I think most of my rebellion took place in those years. By the time I ended up in Higher Education and other students were revelling itn being able to be up all night, drink till they were sick and indulge in other illegal substances the whole thing had worn me out. Knowing more than one friend/acquaintance who had been splattered on the windy lanes after getting on a motorbike whilst stoned had been enough.
So why the nostalgia, you might well ask? Insanity? Well it’s a bit more than that, or so I like to think. Our household is once again in the throes of national exams. Dear Son 3 who is 18, is doing A levels and Dear Son 4, who is 16,GCSE’s . They are both looking forward to extra long summer holidays and the prospect for DS3 of heading off to University in the autumn. Something about the smell of new mown grass, the burr of lawn-mowers and the remembrance of exams triggers also the memory of those summers, the passion and intensity of feeling, the friendships, love affairs and traumas that was being young. We used to laugh about what we would be like in the future, so much of what we said came true.
I looked at a photo last night and realised we are the age, our mothers were then. How bizarre is that recognition. Somewhere along the way we grew up and grew apart. But although J2 and I haven’t met for years and our lives just drifted away from each other, when I hear J1s voice on the phone I recognise the 17 year old in both of us. By the way J1, if you are reading this, we should catch up!
What did you want to be when you were 17? I had dreams of being a writer. I wanted to travel the world, especially the USA and Sociology had become my passion. I wanted to be free. I wasn’t interested in money or material things. I wanted to live in a commune and change the world but I was too scared to break the mold so ran off to University instead.
I look at my life now and I still see that idealistic, passionate, funny, girl who gets lost in her imagination. I can smile at the naivety, cringe at the arrogance and remember all the lessons I learned along the way. I can forget about money and practicalities in the urge to change the world, or my life. I want to travel more than I have. I finally got to the USA when I was 40+ and I love it. I love the people, the enthusiasm and freshness and the vast skies. I still want to write. I left that dream buried in the daily stuff, occasionally resurrecting it with poetry, journals and online musings. Now it is poking its head out from my turtle shell and I am slowly exploring the grass.
I don’t want to re-live my teenage years. I had a lot of identity stuff to work out ( who hasn’t?) and I guess that got in the way sometimes. I am sorry for the worry I caused my poor long-suffering parents by my late hours, drunken revelling and clutch of higly unsuitable boyfriends. But I don’t regret much. I am proud of my own boys and the way they have handled their teenage years with grace and maturity, far better than I ever did. Im sure they will read this sometime and laugh at their middle aged teenage mum.
Thank God for teenage dreams, because somewhere in there lie the seeds of tomorrow.