The other day, as I pondered the words, “Two aging hippies live here,” the greeting on the welcome mat at the front door of my home, I thought about how lucky I am to have had Nancy in my life for so long.
I wondered how we ever got together. I mean Nancy was raised in Pacific Palisades, in L.A., overlooking the mighty Pacific, across a canyon from Grace Kelly, Walter Matthau and Betty Davis, just to name a few.
I grew up on the north side of Tucson, overlooking a not so mighty vacant lot and there were no movie stars anywhere in view and no beautiful green canyons for little kids to frolic in or run through, no deer and the like, just lizards scurrying about under the relentless sun, going: “Whew!”
The grownups in Nancy’s life lived high on the hog with more than one bathroom in their house. The grownups in my life made a meal out of every square inch of the hog and gave thanks to God that we had something to pee in that wasn’t outside of the house.
In 1962 Nancy was President of Young Americans for Freedom, a high school Goldwater Girl. I was two years removed from the University of Arizona where I had hung out with a far out lefty group called Students for Equality. Barry Goldwater was, perhaps, our biggest enemy.
But when I met Nancy in 1973 she had more than shed her YAF mentality and was a full blown hippie, living her life, unapologetically, wearing her heart on her sleeve more than anyone I had ever known or had ever perceived.
I was, at the time, a principal at an inner city school, and she was new to my campus, and I had no idea that I would soon witness teaching on the highest level. Oh, she was so dedicated. Being one who swam a mile in the ocean several times a week, she took her students to the beach and taught them to swim. She loved cooking so she taught the children how to read recipes and prepare meals. She exposed them to Balboa Park and all its wonders. She structured their learning experiences around the arts so they could discover who they were and express themselves artistically and soulfully and entertain notions of bettering their lives. Watching her give of herself like that everyday made her irresistibly attractive to me, in so many ways.
Then, voila, we were in the early stage of a relationship, beginning with weekend tennis dates where I would often find myself lunging at aces she smashed by me. I love athletic women and she was that to the letter, every now and then challenging me to one-on-one games in hoops. Whoo, I was smitten to the bone.
The conversations after our skirmishes drew us close together. We rapped about everything, the horrors of Vietnam, our love for “Hanoi Jane,” Martin and Malcolm and Fannie Mae, Maya Angelou. Gloria Steinem ran through her veins and we’d argue because she didn’t need me “opening any doors” for her. The fire in her eventually stole me away from the life I was living and we set up housekeeping and began a journey of trying to set the world right. We fought against apartheid in South Africa and Ronnie Ray Gun arming the enemies of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and mining their harbors. Marching in anti-war rallies seemed to us a way of life.
In our thirty-four years together we managed to raise twin daughters and a son who possessed ten times more energy than the Eveready Energizer Bunny. Nancy, mom, was the engine that made our family go. She made sandwiches for us just about every school day. She critiqued us on the run with: “You can’t turn that homework in with all those mistakes. Do that over. Ernie, please tell me you aren’t going to bring that up with the superintendent and expect to keep your job.” Who knows how many miles she logged getting our brood to track and soccer and baseball and basketball and band practices, piano lessons and dance rehearsals. I wasn’t a slacker in these endeavors but a school principal can’t always be on hand. She was always there. A “little late” (sometimes a lot late) but there.
Oh, I’m so glad our paths crossed as we old hippies had a great life together and it’s the hippy in me that’s keeping me moving right along in pursuit of our life quests with her memory and spirit tucked away and alive in my heart and soul. That, for me, will never grow old.