Ever see a Norman Rockwell painting? Well then you have a general idea of what my up bringing was like, just insert a western flavor to it. I am a baby boomer. I grew up on Ward and June Cleaver, Father knows Best and Andy Griffith on a black and white TV. I remember the Cuban missile crisis, bomb shelters, and classroom "duck and cover" drills in case of a nuclear attack. I can remember where I was and what I was doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Roy Rogers was my hero growing up. Even then Dale Evens didn't cut it for me. Roy did all the fun exciting things while Dale just kinda waited for him and told him what a good job he did. I was a feminist even then I suppose. I cut my adolescent teeth on the music of the Doors, Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Iron Butterfly, Donovan, Mama's and the Poppa's, Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, and of course the Beatles. Rebelled against my parents, snuck out of the house to see boys, wore hip-huggers, crop-top blouses and wore my hair long and loose with a beaded headband around my forehead. I demonstrated and burned my bra while at college and then promptly dropped out. Moved to San Francisco/Oakland bay area for a short stint and called myself a flower child. From flower child I graduated onto "finding myself".
What I "found myself" was pregnant. I gave birth to my child without benefit of marriage then married the father. The dominant opinion was that the marriage wouldn't last a year - it has lasted 36 and still going. After a 20 year hiatus I returned to college and brought up an abysmal 1.22 g.p.a. to a 3.9 and graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.
In most of this I am not unique - my experiences are in the collective consciousness of my generation. Those events may have colored who and what I am but they did not shape me. For that you have to look at the environment and the values and ideals instilled in me by my parents.
I was raised in the rural west and have lived and worked among what some (those who aren't from the west) would call "cowboys" (I use the male gender here to refer to both male and female cause frankly "cowperson" just doesn't cut it and "cowgirls" is rather condescending.). I call them friends and neighbors. My father made a decision early in his career to pass up transfers and professional promotion in order to keep his family in one location and give them roots. For this (and so much more) he has my deepest gratitude. As an adolescent I rebelled against him but always he was my hero, my "Superman". From him I learned the meaning of honor, justice, discipline and self-determination. He taught from example and not just words. He raised me no differently than he did my brother, until social pressure came to bear on him for the actions of his "hellion" daughter. At five I he taught me judo, he was an instructor for the State Highway Patrol School. Those lessons lasted until I threw a classmate over my shoulder when he tried to push me on the playground. His father complained bitterly about his son being thrown by a "girl" so those lessons stopped abruptly. (That boy is now a man and lives not far from me. We see each other frequently and I'm glad to report his psyche doesn't seem to scarred for the encounter.) At 8 my father bought boxing gloves and taught me the manly art of self-defense. Until I clocked him with a quick left jab to the eye and blacked it - that ended my boxing career. (What a pity - I coulda been a contender ). I was a crack shot with a pistol by the time I was ten and would show off my skills for my father and his friends every time he had to qualify on the shooting range for his job. From the time I could walk and mother trusted him enough with me, I was hunting with him. I may not have been old enough to shoot but I learned how to track game, wildlife habits, respect for the land, respect for the animal and of course how to take care of the game after it gave its life to sustain ours. Dad was the one too that made me get back up on the horse when I was thrown and calmed Mother down when she wanted to forbid me participation in some "dangerous" enterprise.
Dangerous in Mother's eyes was any activity where I could sustain an injury. She was the protector when it came to her children. I'd never seen a sow Grizzly protect her young but I knew exactly what it meant and the ferocity of it when Dad explained to me that it was Mother when she thought someone had hurt her children. After that I had no desire to see the "real" thing - I'd seen Mother in action to many times to want to even chance being the recipient of that wrath. Mother tried to be the "softening" influence in my life. I was a complete mystery to her and her to me. As a child I passed her off as the embodiment of all those things I didn't want to be. Not for me the life of a housewife. Frills and lace held no fascination for me. Proper walk and proper talk were for "fluffs" those girls with poodle skirts and pony-tails complete with color coordinated scarves and bobby socks. How could you ride a horse in a poodle skirt but the scarves did make nice ornaments when dangled from your horse's bridle. I was so sure that being a woman meant uninteresting and dull that I discounted everything I thought even slightly feminine. It wasn't until I had a family of my own that I began to understand the quiet but enormous strength that she possessed, and appreciate the sacrifice she lovingly made for her family. When I recognized her as a woman and not just my mother, I began to recognize her as an extremely vibrant woman with a ready wit and charm. I saw that her style and grace got doors opened for her instead of having to bust them open with brute strength. Femininity didn't have to be synonymous with weak and simpering. Being female wasn't something you had to fight against it was something to be embraced. It was ok to be different than men, different didn't mean less - just ... different. Call me slow but the whole concept was an epiphany. And mother, so typical, just sat and smiled at me as she watched my head swim with the concept. Never telling me "I told you so" instead her smile said, "I was wondering when you'd get it". From that moment until she passed, my mother was also my best friend. Even now, mother being as protective of her children as she was, I feel her hand in my life and am comforted by it.