By Diane Hughes
The story continues from this previous post. Diane and Glenn have completed renovations to turn their Post Office Truck into a unique mobile home base, allowing them to join in the peripatetic 1960s hippie culture.
For most of a year, we traversed the California, Oregon, and Nevada backroads, stopping when we tired of driving, going when we grew tired of the place we were in.
We met people who were artists working the Art Fair circuit and were invited to their homes if we ever got to their home town. After a fair near the UC Berkeley campus, we were invited back to the home of one of the artists in the Berkeley Hills. There in a small handbuilt house we talked with several artists while a guitar gently played in the corner. The jeweler was thrilled because Joan Baez purchased one of her large silver bracelets. During a lull in the conversation, I mentioned how lovely the music was and our host replied “yeah, that’s Steven Stills of Crosby Stills and Nash.”
Glenn, who grew up in a family-owned motel, could start a conversation with almost anyone and get excited about some unique aspect of their character. We frequently found ourselves invited to dinner or sharing our various food stashes with fellow travelers. We might be discussing religion or politics, but we both especially enjoyed picking the brains of someone who had some expertise or opinions other than our own. We were open to almost anyone and, though we each had a very strong sense of what we thought, we were willing to reconsider. An old crinkled rock hound explained to us how he made a modest living out of hunting stone in various locations which he made sure he didn’t disclose. But he graciously accepted the free meal we provided and we enjoyed the evening campfire listening to his stories. We layed our bags on picnic tables in some small park high in the Sierra Mountains to watch the annual meteor showers.
We felt we had discovered how to live, how to be free enough but also secure enough. That year seemed blessed with fortuitous meetings, precious times of making love on a deserted beach, sleeping with the sounds of the grand waterfalls of Yosemite. On a whim we could change course, driving towards the beach so we could hear the sounds of the ocean. And everywhere and every day, we fixed coffee and read for hours, often reading tidbits out loud to each other. Long conversations about philosophy, history, or our families, why we were who we were. We listened to the news and agonized over the directions things were headed.
But after a while, we grew tired of the life. I no longer remember precisely what happened. It wasn’t anything horrible but just a series of small things. I remember we had just barely made it back to town, no money for food or gas, so we arrived at his parents’ place hungry and each of us in not such a great mood. I blamed him for not better managing the money and he was just tired of my depression and fears. After a good night’s sleep and a couple of good home-cooked meals, we left to take me to my sister’s place where I would spend the weekend while he did his reserve duty. Somehow we came to the conclusion that some change was needed and we agreed to think about it over the weekend apart.
On Monday we drove to the beach of our first date. Glenn wanted to go back to school, and I wanted to take classes too. I was thinking that if we wanted to adopt, we needed to start living in ways acceptable to adoption agencies. Glenn’s mom had mentioned that a neighbor’s house was for rent, and his sister-in-law told us that Hewlett Packard was hiring. A man who admired our truck had given us his number saying if we ever wanted to sell, he’d give us a good price. So we made the call and the man came over that evening. The man tried to negotiate, but he wanted that truck and he could see that we were not going accept a lower offer. If he paid it, we would rent the house and I’d go to Hewlett Packard to apply for a job. If he didn’t we’d get in the truck and head South the next morning. The man paid the price, saying all kinds of wonderful things about our truck after he’d agreed to our price. It was sad to watch him drive off with our beloved home but it was time to move on and we needed that money to get started in our new life. The next morning Glenn took me to Hewlett Packard and I got a job, we rented the house…
Neither of us ever regretted that time as it was a rich time of adventure and getting to know each other so well. I often said what I missed most when we parted ways a dozen years later was that he knew me so well he could walk into a bookstore and find the perfect book for me because he always knew what I was thinking about.
When we split, we were both as gentle as possible. But when we started dividing up the books, so many were books we’d both read, so many important reads that both of us wanted. The tension got the better of us. In the middle of it, one of us said “hot fudge sundae.” So many evenings, with both of us reading, one of us would say “hot fudge sundae” and we would jump in the car and head to Denny’s where we often sat for hours reading together, sharing interesting items.
Going out together for one more hot fudge sundae broke the tension. We returned to the unsorted books with our mutual respect in control. The book we almost fought over, we realized, was Making of the Modern Mind, a book that was one of the books on that yellow shelf in our post office truck when we headed north on that first leg of our journey, a book we both read, often reading parts out loud to each other. We both wanted it because we so fondly remembered those sweet shared days, now burnished a soft golden yellow in my mind.