- So, you think hippies are a thing of the past? Wrong! It is my pleasure to welcome Patricia Lapidus to Book Blather.Trish has published a memoir of her life in a community of spiritual hippies, Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village. She has published poems in a number of literary magazines, including Green Hills Literary Lantern, Off the Coast, and Peregrine. She writes articles for firstname.lastname@example.org and for hubpages. Swamp Walking Woman, a modern mythic fairy tale, and Gideon’s River, a novel, are available from amazon and as eBooks from Smashwords. Red Hen's Daughter, a book of poems about a farm childhood and more is also available from Amazon.
Trish lives with her husband in New Haven, CT, where she hikes the beautiful trails of West Rock Ridge State Park, writes, and gives workshops at the New Haven Public Library. She is an encourager of writers and a strong advocate for parents and children and for the dignity of all persons.
Reading, Writing, and Adventure
My parents filled our farm home with books. It was assumed we would be readers. Dad urged us to read Come Spring, a novel by Ben Ames Williams about settlers in early Maine. Based on actual people, it was the sort of story that put you right there in the middle of barn-raisings, moose hunts, trips by canoe downriver to the corn meal mill, and winters in the loft of a cabin.
One of Dad's favorite books was The Virginian, published in 1902 by Owen Wister. I love the scene where the new school teacher Molly coyly pretends she doesn’t remember the man who rescued her from a stagecoach stuck in a swirling river. The Virginian gently chides her,
“You are a grown woman, a responsible woman. You’ve come…to a rough country to instruct young children that play games,--tag, and hide-and-seek, and fooleries they’ll have to quit when they get old. Don’t you think pretendin’ yu’ don’t know a man,--his name’s nothin’, but him,--a man whom you were glad enough to let assist yu’ when somebody was needed,--don’t you think that’s mighty close to hide-and-seek them children plays?”
Here was an early description of social dishonesty as playing games, and a model of honest exchange. One could build a useful philosophy of how best to live ones life from the thoughts and actions of the Virginian, in whom playfulness mixes with a dignity surpassing any honor conferred by class or education. This book is far more than a western. It is a carefully created world where all that is genuine and strong in human nature is set forth with intelligence and humor.
The genres into which we divide our literature often don't do such great books justice. Our best romance novels, for example, remind us of what matters most in our love relationships. They show us the heroism that is possible when love in on the line. A well-written book makes us feel that what we do in life matters and that we can do what matters most.
My parents had not planned on my becoming a writer. My father's attitude toward my published books seems to be a sort of bemused pride. My mother worries I've told family secrets. I have. How could I have written Sweet Potato Suppers, my memoir of a personal journey while living among spiritual hippies, without mentioning the spankings and strictures of a Yankee Baptist childhood?
Gideon's River is a novel about a mother and son who play out the ancient drama of the bully and the wimp. How could I have written it without reference to the family dramas I have witnessed? But, Mom gets her share of credit too. Here is a scene from Sweet Potato Suppers:
Birthday Party in a Box
Benjamin’s grandmother thought of a way to provide, long distance, a party for his birthday. A package arrived at The Farm Post Office. Michael picked it up on his way in from The Farm Market.
Benjamin, he said, coming in through the little woodshed that was our front entrance, I got a package here has your name on it.
The kids gathered round. The grownups stood back. With his pocketknife Don cut the tape and string.
Benjamin opened the cover. On top were six little winter hats in different colors, a stripe around the fold of each one. He gave one to Seth and one to Emily, one to Naomi, one to Violet, one to Chester. That left one for him.
Next he passed out six pairs of white crew socks, one to each kid. Under these articles of clothing was a smaller box, carefully cushioned in newspaper. He opened the box and passed out six pieces of homemade chocolate fudge. The kids munched while the grownups grinned. No one worried fudge would spoil any suppers.
On the bottom of the box were six fire trucks, each about ten inches long, in different designs. A chief’s car, a red pickup truck, a tool van, a hose truck, and two ladder trucks.
One for you. One for you. One for you.
Soon six kids were running trucks across the worn linoleum, around the wood stove, through the path by the sink and stove, and back to the living area.
How did your mother know to do that? asked Rita in wonder.
Now that’s a grandmother who pays attention, said Maureen. She knew how many kids we have here and she knew what we needed.
One of the themes of my work is that parents do all they can to benefit their children—and often end up harming them as well. By the time we understand what methods might have worked better, such as more kindness and less criticism, it to too late to put our wisdom into practice. Our children are grown and we can only hope to pass on some support and guidance to the next generation of parents. I have enjoyed writing books that illustrate the middle ground between the strict upbringing I experienced and the permissive upbringing I gave my children. Trying to hold our children just loose enough, well, that is (as they say on The Farm) a yoga.
Trish maintains several blogs related to her writing and her family.