I had to run for what seemed like a long time, headed for home, confused and hurt and crying.
I bet everyone knows what the road home looks like through tears; mine looked like patches of dry grass, bumpy hard dirt, a tiny basketball court near a cow field, and ditches along dirt roads. I was about seven, and as I rode dirtbikes and climbed around in treehouses with the neighbors' kids that day, someone called me a hippie, in such a way that I knew I'd been insulted. I think there was some sort of horrifying children's ritual like "everyone stood in a circle around me and pointed and laughed." So I ran.
I don't know how, but my dad met me long before I got to the mobile home we lived in. He kneeled, waiting, and I ran right into his arms, sobbing. "What's the matter, girl?" he said, and the thought of a man my own age now comforting a girl child with such respect and gentleness is absolutely laughable. I just don't know any macho carpenters who would marry into fatherhood, on purpose and without resentment, let alone any who might really take to it and be good at it.
"They called me a hippie!" I choked out. It might have been "dirty hippie," the little sh*ts. My large father, beard to his chest, tattoos, earrings, imposing red mane tied back with a length of leather shoelace, considered this, and my guess is that he may have hidden a laugh. It was 1978 or so, and he had lived in the Haight-Ashbury as part of the rock music world of the 1960s, had done security at concerts and worked highway crews. How many times had he been called hippie and worse, by significantly larger, more violent crowds than mine? He smelled like clean sweat and Sequoia redwood sawdust, like he always did. "Do you know what that word means?" he asked.
I have often wished to have the guts of my small self at that moment; I stopped crying because I realized I did not know. "No," I said, suddenly roiled with curiosity. What was it they thought I was? "Well, a hippie is someone who thinks all people should be brothers. You love your brother, right?" he said. I nodded, wanting to say no, I hated Messy Jesse the brat, but I also sensed that this was no time to fuck around. "Well, I think, and your mother thinks, that everyone should treat each other like brothers. You take care of him, right?" Again, I nodded. I did take care of him, even though I hated him. "So if everyone in the whole world could just take care of each other, everyone would be happy. That's what we think. Because of that, some people call us hippies, and don't like us, but it’s OK. You can be a hippie too, if you want. Do you want to be a hippie with us?” “Well, what about sisters?” I asked, well aware of my own role (I was an innate feminist.) Dad was only too happy to clarify. “Yeah, yeah! Brothers and sisters! The whole world is like brothers and sisters.”
I thought about it. I had to be honest, I knew what he was talking about. The prissy, unfriendly, threatening "normal people" who combed their hair and didn't like us were clearly wrong. In addition to being my tormentors on this day, they were my schoolteachers, they owned the grocery store and the restaurants in our tiny town. Some of them were my classmates, who faithfully transmitted the prejudices of their parents minus any adult restraint: The violently sexist and racist jokes they told back then still stand as some of the evillest things I’ve ever heard. I thought they all had turds where their hearts should have been. Still do.
And now I had to love them!? But even a kid can see that hate has to stop somewhere. I knew what death was, and I knew what pain was, and I didn't wish them on anyone, not even my ass-hat playmates. Ultimately, I did love them. Of course, I would try to take care of them, or at least not hurt them, even if they were going to use that very fact against me. I understood all this absolutely clearly, and it made me feel a whole lot better.
"Yeah!" I said to my dad. "I'll be a hippie!" "That's my girl!" said Dad, still, I'm sure, stifling laughter, but proud as punch. I ran off, back down the trail around the end of the cow field, couldn't wait to tell those neighbor kids that yeah, I was a hippie.
is a San Francisco based writer. She was born in Moffitt Hospital at the UCSF Medical Center, but grew up in a mobile home on a farm in hippie country, now called wine country. Some people think this makes her a San Francisco native, and some don't.