I grew up in the Swinging Sixties on a suspended wooden seat, pumping hard to kick the sky. While adults talked of riots, assassinations, and a war in Vietnam, I thought of playgrounds, Schwinn bikes, and Charles Schultz.
I watched black and white episodes of Bonanza, Andy Griffith, and The Lucy Show at home despite major television companies producing them in color. I knew how to do the “Teaberry shuffle,” put “a tiger in my tank,” and buy “candy-covered popcorn, peanuts, and a prize.” My friends followed Star Trek and Batman, but my mother thought that aliens, “pows,” “biffs,” and “oofs” were too alternative for our home.
Mod clothing was all the rage. Even the Twiggy doll I’d received for my birthday had white vinyl go-go boots. I craved a scooter dress and matching scarf, but asking my mother for a mini skirt was obviously out of the question. When my adult sister finally gave me a pair of hot-pink fishnet hose for Christmas, I found out why most people don’t wear them on the teeter-totter. A hole in your fishnet may be chilly, but it isn’t cool.
One momentous weekend, my perception of the decade expanded when Darla invited me to spend the night. “Bring your favorite LPs,” she said. “I’ve got the new Monkees album, and it’s really outta sight.”
Darla had a brother in high school and could use vocabulary like “outta sight” and “neato.” Darla knew all the hippest music, for she had a portable record player in her home. Hers looked like a suitcase, complete with a handle and two brass latches on the side. When you opened the top, it revealed a turntable, stylus, and the ubiquitous arm that allowed you to play more than one album at a time. Darla epitomized groovy.
My family didn’t own a record player, so I’d been improvising with my mother’s stand mixer. I found that if I put a Little Golden Book on its turntable, lowered the mixer head, and turned it on low, I could hear the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. If I sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” loud enough, that is. I learned by experience that high speed didn’t work well, as it caused the “album” to fly across the kitchen and scare the cat.
I followed Darla home from school that Friday, clutching my book satchel with one hand and my mother’s hardshell makeup case with the other. It was not that a seven-year-old requires makeup, but the square, green marbled case was perfect for my overnight needs. Mama folded my Saturday clothes and yellow “Don’t Pollute” PJs against the tan vinyl lining and placed my toothbrush and toothpaste in the lift-out plastic tray.
After Darla and I snacked on Bugles and Tang (“the space age drink!”), we went outside to check out her hula hoop. I never mastered it for more than a couple of seconds, but Darla could get the ring going for so long that the weights inside sang. “Shoop-shooop. Shoop-shooop.” Maybe Darla’s talent had something to do with the hours before her birth. On the afternoon before Darla’s entrance into the world, her very pregnant mother demonstrated the hula hoop to her entire family.
I’m sure that dinner was delicious, but I was too self-conscious to eat. My eyes fixed on Darla’s beautiful older brother sitting opposite me. He talked about someone who was “outta his tree” and someone else who was a “chicken head.” He seemed anxious to cruise the drag, and I was anxious not to make a fool of myself. As he excused himself from the table, he smiled, and I knew that I had been in the company of someone who was genuinely dreamy.
After a game of Twister with her younger brother, Darla and I retreated to her pass-through closet for the main attraction. Reverently, Darla opened her portable record player and picked up the Monkee’s album with the distinctive guitar logo. We sang along to their theme song, “Daydream Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” By the time we got to “I’m a Believer,” Darla and I belted out the lyrics at the top of our lungs. Good thing we had the door closed.
“Love was out to get me (do, do, do, do)
That’s the way it seemed (do, do, do, do)
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams (yeah, yeah, yeah…).”
Honestly, I can’t remember any disappointment while we sat singing there in Darla’s closet. Adults around us may have viewed the future with anxiety, but we had the beautiful security of being childlike. Amid the do-do’s and the yeah-yeah’s, we could just enjoy life.