Growing Up Hippie

Maybe it was the earnest meditation practices or the homemade cardboard lunch box that caused me to rebel. As the adult daughter of flower children, I crave structure, tidiness, and lots of sugar.


| November-December 2003



Growing up in my family was a trip. At any time I could be hauled off to an impromptu gathering overrun by urchins with names like Gaia, Tao, Cinnamon, and Raven. We once visited some back-to-the-land friends on a 100-acre plot in rural Quebec where our weaver hostess greeted us wearing nothing but a smile. With a dozen families wandering around naked, the choice was to stand out in a sundress or bare my awkward, 11-year-old body with mosquito-bite breasts.

My sibs and I tried not to stare at all the exposed flesh. Instead, we passed the time by hooking a bass and grilling it in coconut body oil by the lake, then hanging out in a sauna fashioned from a canvas tent and bonfire-heated rocks. Every so often a grown-up would sprinkle pot leaves and water onto the hot stones. I remember wondering if I would get high.

My mother and her friends considered themselves artists, not hippies. But to everyone else they were flower children. Maybe it was the Mexican and Indian peasant clothes they wore— on formal occasions like weddings—or their childlike belief in the magical powers of plant foods: goldenseal for flu and pickled plums for sore throats. My mom even tried to cure my vision problems with eye exercises (“place your palms on closed lids and visualize spirals”), until a teacher persuaded her that it was time to get me glasses.

The counterculture was a strange world to be born into. Or, more specifically, to fall into—in the arms of my yogi/mathematician father, who delivered me without benefit of medical training. (I was the second of my mother’s four home births.) Like many hippies, my father had led a nomadic existence. In 1965 and 1966, he was featured in a series of Toronto Star articles documenting his spiritual journey overland to India in a vintage Cadillac and describing his goal to found what the newspaper called an “ashran.” Sadly, he died of cancer when I was a year old.

After his death, my 26-year-old mother bundled up my older sister and me and hit the road. We shared a ride from Toronto to Vancouver, where we spent a winter near Kitsilano's hippie haven, now yuppified West Fourth Avenue. Then she piled us into an old truck rigged with a camper and headed for Mexico. En route, she and her new boyfriend, a dropout from Berkeley, held “spontaneous music workshops” for patients with mental disabilities.

In the villages of Chiapas, Mom went native. She ground corn by hand to make tortillas and embroidered her own designs on blouses, much to the amusement of the Mayan women. She and her boyfriend held jam sessions with Mayan musicians, a radical activity for gringos back then. “What we were doing was revolutionary,” she recalled recently. “We were part of the revolution!” One of her boyfriend's goals was to set up a Mayan-run radio station. He succeeded after we left him there when I was 3.

jasmine
6/14/2009 2:12:11 PM

While I lived the more "Haight-Ashbury" version of Growing Up Hippie, this story nonetheless relates strongly to my feelings and experiences. In particular, the pursuit of perfection, and the constant seeking of order out of chaos, which remains a pointless but compulsive part of my life.


jasmine
6/14/2009 1:51:26 PM

While I lived the more "Haight-Ashbury" version of Growing Up Hippie, this story nonetheless relates strongly to my feelings and experiences. In particular, the pursuit of perfection, and the constant seeking of order out of chaos, which remains a pointless but compulsive part of my life.