When my mother sees this post, she will immediately correct me and say she was technically a beatnik, not a hippie. See that—she was too counterculture to even call herself a hippie.
Whatever the case, I always knew we lived an oddball sort of life. I spent my early childhood running around half-naked and barefoot on Martha’s Vineyard, and then spent the rest of it moving all around the country. I liked to brag that we’d moved 13 times by the time I was 13 years old (it was true). My parents were always on a mission to find themselves, change the world, explore.
We were hippies. Real live ones, not like the ones that emerged when I was in high school in the ’90s with their plastic peace-sign earrings, pre-ripped jeans and tie-dye-printed shirts. We ate tofu and drank soy milk before anyone had even heard of it—back when you had to go to a special store to buy it (the one health food store within a 40-mile radius).
Here’s how you know if you, too, were raised by flower children:
1. The day John Lennon died was a family tragedy of epic proportions. Your family gathered around the black-and-white television and watched the coverage. It was the first time you saw your parents cry. And it was like losing a family member: John (yes, everyone in your household was on a first-name basis with him) had been singing you lullabies since you were in the womb. You still can’t believe he’s gone.
2. You were “eating clean” and avoiding “processed foods” before anyone else used those terms. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to eat cereal with added sugar, let alone artificial colors or flavors. I remember being at a friend’s house and being offered Lucky Charms. Yes, I wanted it, but I was racked with guilt the whole time I sat there eating it, watching the milk turn pink with Red No. 2.
3. You joined Dr. Bronner’s cult as soon as you started to read, bathing in his minty bubbles and reciting “All one! All one!” as your mother washed your hair.
4. You found Alex P. Keaton simultaneously off-putting and totally fascinating. You wondered how anyone so cute and charming could be a registered Republican, and secretly wondered what kind of hell would break loose if you ran off and married him.
5. Your mom’s tattered copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves was your preteen bible. Your parents had taught you about sex early on, but gave you this book for further reference—you know, so you could learn about female orgasms, birth control, abortions, masturbation and natural childbirth, all at the ripe age of 10.
6. You had to hide your love of the Material Girl at first, because she seemed to exemplify all that was wrong with the capitalist regime. And the first time you heard of the pop star Richard Marx you wondered if good old Karl had a great-grandson, and whether Richard thought religion was the opiate of the people too (and if so, when you’d be old enough to date him).
7. Cheetos? Doritos? Chips and dip? Nope, snack time was a bowl of sunflower seeds on the wicker coffee table. If you wanted something extra special, a carob-covered rice cake was a decadent treat.
8. Your mom was the first to know when you lost your virginity, and she knew every detail of your teenage sex life for years to come (see No. 5).
9. Patriotic holidays made you a little uncomfortable. And you weren’t sure if you should really be saying the Pledge of Allegiance. What about Vietnam? And slavery? And Dan Quayle? The whole litany of American atrocities had been drilled into your head since infancy.
10. Without meaning to, you debunked Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy for the kids on the school bus. Your parents told you it was all made up—but they forgot to mention that the other kids weren’t supposed to know, that their parents preferred them to stay blissfully ignorant.
11. You had a copy of Spiritual Midwifery tucked inside your math book and read it during trigonometry class. You planned your early graduation from high school (if you didn’t fail trigonometry) so that you could run off to The Farm with your boyfriend and have Ina May deliver all your babies (or was that just me?).
12. When people used the word “granola” to evoke hippiedom, you were like, “What’s the big deal about granola?” Granola = breakfast.
13. In your 20s, you’re talking to your therapist about your boundary issues (see No. 8).
14. When you become a parent, certain things come easily. If your newborn fusses every time you try to put him in the bassinet, you just pick him up and take him into bed with you. After all, you grew up smushed together with your parents and siblings in a big family bed. The hard part is explaining the concept of predictable naptimes and bedtimes to your own parents, who remember toting you around to Grateful Dead concerts and other all-night happenings.
15. You are somehow not surprised when your firstborn starts calling you and your husband by your first names. But your heart swells with joyful surprise when your second child says “Mommy” and “Daddy.”
Like most kids, I had a wonderfully imperfect childhood. Though I appreciate all that my gypsy lifestyle taught me about diversity and resilience, I kind of hated uprooting my life every year. And I often felt a secret desire to just be a little more “normal,” without the exhausting necessity of questioning the status quo with every breath.
Since becoming a parent, I have embraced a more traditional family lifestyle in some ways, while still maintaining a bit of a counterculture, natural-minded edge. But I feel so lucky to have grown up being encouraged to challenge authority, to think outside the box about everything, to believe that art and music can change the world—that people are more important than any material worth—and most important, that love is all you need.