California, 1970: flush with idealistic ambition and youthful passion, best friends Lindsay and Gia are preparing to graduate from college. With their history of radical student activism, they’re determined to make their mark on a country divided by the Vietnam War. Life rarely goes according to plan, however, and they soon find themselves juggling love and motherhood with careers and dreams that seem always just out of reach. They cling to their friendship through it all, relying on one another for the wisdom, laughter, and support that sustain them. Spanning nearly thirty years, Miles to Go offers an insightful look at the enduring friendship between two extraordinary women.
Today I’m sharing a portion of Chapter One.
1970: Sacramento, CA.
Warm breezes wafted peacefully in through the windows in the old Victorian, belying the intensity of the outside world. Here in midtown Sacramento, this old house represented a refuge from the storms of life. All day they had been out protesting the tragedy at Kent State and now Lindsay Malone and Gia Greenbaum sought respite. As they sat yoga style on the tie-dyed window seat cushion, they could finally breathe, and relax. When they had burst through the door after all the excitement of the protest, Gia had immediately lit some incense and grabbed a deck of cards, while Lindsay poured wine into their little jelly glasses. Now they sat still, breathing deeply, trying to concentrate on the game. But their speeding thoughts refused to be quelled. Too much had happened.
Gia broke the silence. “Do you think those speeches conveyed our message? I really liked Judson Gregory’s parallels between the attacks of those National Guardsmen in Ohio and the storm troopers of Hitler’s day. It’s time that more people questioned the actions of authority figures and stopped the insane violence!” Instead of calming down, Gia became more agitated as she spoke, her words carrying her backward to the past few days. She rubbed her arm slightly, then looked down at the bruise, now slightly fading into brown. She couldn’t remember when that had happened. While the demonstrations had been peaceful, she recalled intense moments when the protestors had pushed and shoved in their excitement.
“I did like Judson’s speech. It was far out! But, of course, my all-time favorite was Jordan McClure; he was at his best with his impassioned pleas for a kinder, gentler society.” Lindsay closed her eyes and sighed dreamily, picturing the intense young man who had become Gia’s love interest. He reminded Lindsay of a young Robert Kennedy. Not only was he an idealistic and compelling speaker, but he put action behind his words. Among other things, he volunteered at the local Draft Help Center, offering legal methods to avoid the draft. Recently, Gia had begun volunteering there too.
Their minds drifted back to how it had all started just a few days ago. When the news accounts of Kent State had spread throughout the country, many students on college campuses had reacted as if to a personal affront. Lindsay could still feel her heart pounding with the stirring fear and rage.
Jordan and some of the professors, like Judson, had been responsible for the organizing of the demonstration. At first, they had all stood around the campus greens, listening to speeches and chanting. Later they had gotten the idea to pitch tents outside the student union at Sacramento State, where they set up camp. Singing, chanting, listening to speeches, and refusing to attend classes. It had gone on for almost a week. Lindsay felt chills going up and down her spine even now, and when she closed her eyes, she could see it all still. Even the incense brought back the memories of those evenings of talking, sharing, and planning…
Tonight was an official celebration of the closing of Strike City and in a few hours, several of the activists would arrive at the Victorian to commiserate, to eat and drink, and to smoke a little pot.
“Where’s Jordan? He is going to be here, isn’t he?” Lindsay queried, studying Gia, whose long, dark hair was pulled back into one braid. Her jet black eyes normally glowed with intensity, even when she was engaged in some calming activity, but now her long downward sweeping eyelashes hid her eyes, as she studied the cards in her hand. She glanced up almost coyly, while a slight smile curved her full lips. Focusing on the cards, she avoided Lindsay’s probing.
Finally she spoke. “Not only is he coming, but he’s officially moving in.” She paused for dramatic effect. “I hope that’s okay,” she added, gazing at her friend appraisingly. “He’s bringing a new recruit tonight, too. Not someone who’s moving in, but someone with potential for the movement. His name is Jack Kelley. I think you might like him.” She grinned at the look of awe forming on Lindsay’s face.
“Far out!” Lindsay’s expression shifted from awe to open interest. “What has he been involved in?”
Gia filled her in on Jack’s stance with regard to Vietnam, to environmental issues, and to the recent events at Kent State. They had now moved into what appeared to be a review of his resume. As they talked, though, Lindsay’s mind flashed back to a day recently…She had been at the student union and a group had encircled this one guy, who was holding forth in a rather impassioned dissertation. She had caught only the tail end of it, but someone had mentioned his name. It was Jack Kelley. Her interest piqued at the thought of meeting him up close and personal. In that fleeting moment weeks ago, she had been magnetically drawn to him because she had recognized in him that larger-than-life quality, something that many of the powerful men in the movement had. She responded to it on a visceral level.
They returned to a discussion of the evening ahead, briefly planning their menu and music. All they usually did for these events was bring out beer and wine along with a few platters of cheeses and vegetables, and tonight would be no different. Gia, especially, had a strong revulsion for the trappings of the middle class and certainly didn’t want anything from that bourgeois suburban existence to detract from their message and their goals. The essence of life at the Victorian was casual and laid-back, with people in and out on a regular basis. Gia and Lindsay prided themselves on providing a haven for the troubled, as well as a gathering place for the movement. Their regular residents included several women who had fled oppressive relationships; some had shown up on their doorstep battered and bruised, fearing for their lives. Gia, always the political leader amongst them, helped get restraining orders, while Lindsay, the budding social worker, provided comfort and unofficial counseling.
Currently there were seven official residents and the addition of Jordan McClure would bring their number to eight. The house had six bedrooms, and for unofficial residents, they also had space in the basement with rollaway beds. Not the most attractive of rooms, it could nevertheless be quickly pressed into service for the occasional drop-in seeking sanctuary. All members of the official commune shared an ideology regarding war, violence, and women’s issues. However, Gia and Lindsay sometimes loudly complained that the men in the movement gave short shrift to the women’s issues.
Lindsay studied Gia, who was now lighting a joint, having swept away the deck of cards as if bored. She inhaled and handed it to Lindsay. As Lindsay breathed deeply, enjoying the familiar burning sensation in her throat, she remembered their first meeting back at the beginning of their junior year at Sacramento State.
Standing in the registration line, irritated by the tedious waiting, Lindsay had been immediately drawn to the sight of an assertive young woman with a somewhat flamboyant style. She had pushed her way ahead in the line while loudly voicing protest at the way things were being handled. On that day, a black beret had topped her long straight hair. Around her neck hung a peace symbol suspended on a single silver strand. Having emphatically expressed herself, she then turned slightly and the two came face to face. “Hi,” the young woman spoke, almost apologetically. “I get a little intense sometimes. I’m Gia Greenbaum. I’ve been trying to get into this psychology class and I keep hitting roadblocks. I need for someone up there to sign this add card. I’ll just die if I have to wait another semester for this class!”
Laughing, Lindsay had introduced herself and they commiserated about the system. They just knew that they could organize things so much better. At the very least, they could make the whole thing more pleasant. “If only a little humanity could be brought to this whole process!” Gia had grumbled.
That had been the beginning. They had both ended up in that psychology class and realized how much they had in common as they hung out in the student union, talking, sometimes for hours at a time. Their backgrounds were dissimilar, but they were both rebelling against them. Gia had grown up the youngest child of adoring, upper-middle-class parents in San Francisco, a self-described “Jewish American princess.” Lindsay still cringed as she recalled her own childhood with the stern, dictatorial father and the passive mother who seemed to disappear into the woodwork. Her father’s punishments, both verbal and physical, were matched only by the generally oppressive nature of her homelife.
Even now as she thought about that time in her life, Lindsay felt almost physically ill. She could still see the dark presence of Gerald Malone with his favorite weapon of punishment. She pictured the small Lindsay crouched behind the sofa, hoping to escape the stinging of the peach limb as it made contact with her legs. She could hear it coming, with that sound it made…The sinister whooshing of the brandished object. She would close her eyes, hoping to minimize the impact by forcing herself to float above everything that was happening. She had learned, with time, to separate her physical self from the actual event by pretending to be somewhere else, somewhere beautiful and magical. Sometimes she had thought about the beach…Walking on the beach, feeling the ocean waves as they splashed against her legs, her bare feet in the wet sand…The images didn’t come close to shielding her completely from the pain and fear, but they helped.
Lindsay found something in the movement, and in her friendship with Gia, that helped her banish the dark thoughts. She still struggled against the tapes playing in her head, those messages creating self-doubt and self-loathing. But in the movement she discovered a sense of family and a sense of purpose.
To Lindsay, Gia epitomized everything missing in her life so far: she was freedom and self-confidence personified. Hanging out with Gia opened Lindsay’s eyes to the possibilities in life. She still fought against the guilt instilled by her parents, but the radical movement, with the chants of “free at last, free at last,” offered hope for escape from the oppressive chains of her past.
Lindsay had been living in the dorms that year, but after spending time with Gia and her friends at the Victorian, she responded impulsively to Gia’s invitation to move into the house. At that time, there were two other women and three men. None of that original group remained today, except for Gia and Lindsay.
Gia’s voice jarred her back to the present: “Well, I think I’ve had enough of this for awhile.” She stubbed out the tiny remnant of the joint and uncurled her legs, standing up and stretching lazily. “We should probably start getting ourselves together. You do want to impress the groovy new recruit, don’t you?” This last was spoken teasingly and Lindsay reacted by jumping up and following Gia back to her room.
They started readying themselves for what they believed would be the party to end all parties by pulling one outfit after another from the large armoire; like two kids, they tried them on in turn, tossing them afterwards on the big waterbed with its red, white and blue throw. Finally after their discards littered the bed, the two had settled on the perfect image for the event. Lindsay had chosen a combination of colorful layers, beginning with a pair of faded jeans topped with a green, gold, and purple peasant blouse, accentuated with several strands of wooden beads in burgundy, copper, and black . She placed dangling earrings in her pierced ear lobes and pulled her reddish hair back; after scrutinizing herself critically, she brushed out her hair, letting it flow down her back from a center part. Gia’s look also began with jeans, and was topped with a see-through sky blue shirt; she had added a red and gold gauzy poncho and draped several rows of crystal-like beads around her neck. She wore her dark hair in one long braid. Examining the complete effect in the full-length mirror, they pronounced themselves ready.
* * *
As night descended, people drifted amongst the swelling lyrics of the Beatles and Bob Dylan…and the scent of patchouli masked the sweetness of the pot. A long wooden table groaned under the weight of the large platters bearing fresh vegetables, cheeses and fruits. Kegs of beer and cheap jugs of wine stood nearby. A few sodas had been added, along with bottles of rum and vodka. As Lindsay returned from the kitchen after refilling the ice bucket, she glanced up and her heart stood still. There he was! That gorgeous guy from the student union, the one whose reputation had preceded him. His light brown hair hung in waves to his shoulders, while those intense blue eyes took her breath away. He was wearing a light blue open-necked shirt with tight faded jeans. And he was watching her! She stared back, momentarily losing her cool. She regained her bravado and walked toward him. “Hi, I’m Lindsay Malone.”
“I’m Jack Kelley,” he grinned. His voice was deep and sexy. “I like watching you walk into a room.”
The rest of their conversation was a blur. She recalled only the feelings that started in the pit of her stomach and moved up to her throat, catching there. She vaguely remembered that they had exchanged information on their “signs,” a popular icebreaker: He said he was a Leo and she admitted to being a Scorpio. They gazed into each other’s eyes, while Lindsay’s stomach turned over a few times. How idiotic she must seem, she thought suddenly, all starstruck. But before she could regain control, she and Jack had ended up in one of the basement rooms, where they sank onto a mattress on the floor, grasping the bottle of Gallo red wine. Lyrics from a John Lennon song floated down to them like a surreal banner…whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, it’s all right…
They sipped the wine while they murmured in hushed tones, and already a little bit high from everything else they had imbibed, their talk was disjointed. Ideals, plans, goals, all seemed to flow together as a backdrop for the sexual tension between them. They kept on, though, not really fighting the feelings, but prolonging them while they engaged in their intellectual foreplay. Jack said he wanted to be a teacher and believed that he could reshape lives and ideals in this way. Lindsay, awed by his fervor, confided her own goals without self-consciousness. Drawn together despite their very different backgrounds, they connected in their desire to escape their over-controlling parents. They found their current freedom exhilarating. Seeking to “kick over the traces” of a restrictive life, they longed for new avenues for self-expression.
Then, almost as if they had dispensed with some necessary preliminaries, they fell into each other’s arms. Lindsay’s mind seemed to leave her body as sensation and desire took over. Hours later, Lindsay felt dizzy and unreal, as if she were walking on air. Even as they said their good-byes, Lindsay’s heart leaped ahead to the time they would be together again. She just knew that this would be the beginning of something wonderful.
* * *
Two days after the party, Lindsay still hadn’t heard from Jack. “Should I call him?” she asked Gia.
“No, it’s too soon!”
Before parting that night, they had exchanged phone numbers. Jack had written his on a gum wrapper, which, at the time, Lindsay had thought so sweet.
Now she studied the digits, memorizing them. He had also written his address underneath. She recognized the downtown location from the street number. Preoccupied by the information at her fingertips, she moved as if in a trance. She hummed songs they had heard that night. Later she drove downtown and circled the block where he lived, hoping for a glimpse of him. She visualized him walking up those steps, moving about in those rooms…
When a week had gone by, Lindsay ignored Gia’s warnings and dialed his number.
“Hi,” he greeted, as if he had left her presence only moments before. His voice had that by now familiar deep, sexy quality. Breathless, she felt her stomach turn over. Within seconds they were talking as if they had just picked up a thread of a previous conversation, and a warm glow replaced the icicle of fear that had been forming in Lindsay’s stomach when she had imagined that she might never see him again…Jack told her he had been working and studying for finals. He reiterated how much fun he had had at the party. Holding her breath, Lindsay waited. When he invited her to his place, she exhaled, whole again.
* * *
Lindsay climbed the rickety stairs to Jack’s apartment over the delicatessen, and at the top of the steps, waited for his response to her knock. When he opened the door, she followed him into the hall, which led directly into a small, antiquated kitchen; painted in bright orange, it featured an old, clawfoot bathtub center stage. Two combination bedroom-sitting rooms led off the kitchen. Jack’s room, with its old wood floor, contained a thrift store iron bed covered in layers of linens and quilts. Second-hand chairs, ottomans, and tables filled the space, while stacks of books and papers lined the perimeter of the room. On the ottoman was a tray with fruits and cheeses, a bottle of wine with two glasses, and a single candle.
Touched by his efforts, Lindsay slid into his arms. All boundaries disappeared. They gave in to the feelings, while a song played in the background…I want to make it with you…Sweet incense filled the air. Lost to a passion that had taken on a life of its own, Lindsay felt totally consumed by her desire. When they reached a point of temporary satiation, their lust fulfilled for the moment, they drank their wine and nibbled the cheese and fruit. They talked, laughed, and after awhile, held each other and slept. Lindsay felt a little unnerved by her feelings. In the past two years, since she had become a part of the “sexual revolution,” she had had a number of partners with whom she had enjoyed sex. They all laughingly talked of “screwing” without strings. Now, with Jack, she felt as if she were truly making love. There was nothing more enjoyable. And nothing more disconcerting.
* * *
As the dawn broke, Lindsay sat by the window, hugging her knees to her chest, smiling. Down on the street, a garbage truck driver banged open the dumpster. “Fascinating?” Jack’s voice broke the stillness of the dim room. Leaning on his elbow, he grinned seductively.
Turning toward him, Lindsay found herself back in the bed and in his arms. Propelled by some outside force, her movements felt fluid and graceful. Jack’s responsive touch seemed to ignite her every sensation. Their passion escalated, and they made love as never before. Afterwards, Jack lit two cigarettes and they both inhaled.
Suddenly ravenous, Lindsay watched while Jack foraged in the kitchen and finding eggs, he began scrambling them in an old cast iron skillet. He made coffee in an antiquated stovetop pot. Lindsay had never tasted a better breakfast in her entire life. She had never felt more loved.
* * *
Over the next few months, Jack and Lindsay became a couple. It seemed to happen quickly, with Jack suddenly appearing a few days later on the steps of the Victorian, a bottle of wine in one hand, a little bouquet of flowers in the other, and that dashing grin on his face. They sat outside on the porch, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood, while Jack strummed on a guitar. He sang. As she watched him and listened to him singing I want to make it with you, Lindsay thought her heart would beat right out of her chest. Then they would saunter inside, up to Lindsay’s room, spending the afternoon in bed. Most of the time in the beginning, she saw him everyday.
Then, once or twice a week, he would be a “no show.” Not that they’d really had plans, per se, but Lindsay had come to expect it, somehow. Then he would call, apologizing, with some excuse or another and she would forgive his little slights, while at the same time, wondering why she was having the expectations in the first place? She thought there must be something wrong with her. Why couldn’t she just live in the moment?
He seemed to know just when to come forth with the sweet little gesture: the flowers, the singing…and he used all his unique charms at those times. He had that special way of smiling, of leaning in slightly and nuzzling her on the neck…She became weak in the knees and forgave him anything. Lindsay gradually came to count on Jack’s presence. He would amble on by, wearing those faded jeans, that loose shirt with beads around his neck, his hair sometimes pulled back in a ponytail, sometimes loose…And off they would go. To a protest at the campus, or to work at the Draft Help Center, or just to hang out by the river. Afterwards, they sat around the Victorian drinking a little wine, smoking a little pot…And Jack would talk about his ideals, his goals, about all the changes they would make in the system.
Sometimes Gia and Jordan and a few of the others joined them for these discussions. Gia and Jordan kept up the regular draft help counseling, their protesting, and their graduate studies, which were almost an afterthought. They threw parties, made speeches, and made love. They dabbled in drugs and rebelled against the Establishment. Lindsay, who was working on her master’s degree in social work, had plans to try to change the system from within. Gia, who had not settled on anything definite, was becoming more politicized and ranted and raved against Lindsay’s goals, accusing her of selling out.
Lindsay’s choice of a profession had developed early in her life. Being in control was a very important goal for her, stemming from overwhelming feelings of powerlessness throughout her early years. Thus, the goals and passions of the radical groups triggered something extra inside her; every protest symbolized not only the efforts of the groups to stop war and other harmful things, but came from a personal place inside Lindsay that railed against any kind of injustice.
The next few months came to have extra special meaning for Lindsay. Her new friends, and especially her new relationship with Jack, were all part of the process of overcoming the bondage of her past and forging new paths toward personal power. Jack began spending most of his time at the Victorian, and for all intents and purposes, had moved in. Others within the radical left were a continuing presence in the house; some became official residents, while others just hung out, absorbing the ambience and listening to the speeches. It was a nonstop party legitimized by the ideals of the time; passion and fervor held them together, but their beliefs were fueled by the ready presence of the beer, wine and pot. High on substances, they believed their own rhetoric was more profound and more meaningful than any before them. They had invented protest and were going to change the world.
* * *
One day in January, as the rain fell outside the Victorian, Lindsay woke up nauseous, and after throwing up, dragged herself into the kitchen. She felt ghastly and while she nibbled on dry toast and drank her tea, she was suddenly jolted by a realization. She couldn’t remember having her period in awhile, and as she turned the pages of her calendar, she found the damning evidence. She hadn’t had her period since late October. She was sitting quietly sipping her tea when Jack came out. He had that grumpy look he sometimes wore in the mornings, and she decided not to mention any of her fears. Instead, she initiated idle chitchat. “So, what are you up to today, baby?”
He grunted while he stirred sugar into his coffee, not really meeting her eyes. “Just stuff. I might go check out that weekend job. We could use some extra bread.”
That was it. He fell into silence, a signal that the conversation was over. He hunched over his coffee cup, glowering slightly. She pretended to ignore the dark mood and busied herself with her own plans. She would have to check things out first, she decided. Then, and only then, would she even mention anything to him.
A week later, as she became more certain that she was pregnant, she made an appointment at the clinic, where the doctor confirmed her worst fears. She was definitely having a child.
Agonizing for days, she finally decided to tell Jack. It was a rainy Sunday, early in the afternoon, and the football game playing on TV seemed eerily unreal as Lindsay planned the words that would change everything. Jack lay on the floor watching the game while Lindsay sat on the sofa nearby. Clutching her knees to her chest, she blurted it out. “Jack, I’m pregnant.”
He was surprisingly calm as he half-watched the football game, listening to her at the same time. He sat quietly, as the rain pattered on the roof outside, and at first, she thought that maybe he hadn’t understood her. But then he abruptly suggested that they drive up to Nevada and get married. He made sense. After all, they had been planning to marry, anyway, within the next three or four months. In fact, they had picked up the rings from the jeweler just last week. So they would just be moving the wedding up a little. Relieved, Lindsay agreed. She realized as the events unfolded, that Jack’s Catholic upbringing was significantly affecting his actions, but she was just so happy to have a solution.
“How cool is that?” she mused to herself, sarcastically. All of her rebellions and radical pretenses had fled in the face of the unconventional act of having a child outside of marriage. Then she remembered a conversation she’d had with Gia a few months back. Gia had sternly questioned her about her “return to the bourgeois lifestyle,” and now, as she prepared for her quickie wedding, she realized that she was doing just what her own parents would have done! This was the beginning of 1971, on the heels of the most radical decade in history, yet here she was, being predictable and bourgeois. She had failed at being cool and radical.
* * *
The wedding ceremony in Carson City took place hours later, after the long, arduous trip up the mountain, with snow tires facilitating the progress. Lindsay wore a brown herringbone tweed miniskirt with dark brown tights, topped by a thigh length jacket. Her long, reddish brown hair was secured with a brown and black scarf.
Very unglamorous, she thought, but focused instead on the blissfully charming and sweet little chapel, the simple bouquet, and the canned music. She had to stifle the urge to giggle when they met the minister. The Rev. Love presiding in the Love Chapel. Afterwards, Jack and Lindsay both released all their nervous laughter as they poked fun at the “hokey” little ceremony. Finding a casino featuring a buffet, they spent their last few dollars on their official wedding feast. They got back to Sacramento in the wee hours of the morning, groaning inwardly at the thought of early classes that day.
* * *
The next few months were hectic, with classes and a thesis for Lindsay and student teaching for Jack. In the midst of all of this, they scoured the real estate section of the Bee, finally choosing a cute four-plex on a cul-de-sac near the Kaiser Hospital. They moved in. Between classes, Lindsay decorated their first home together on a shoestring budget. This was closer to suburbia than they had ever wanted to be, but as circumstances changed, so did their wants and needs. Theirs was the two-story townhouse in front, facing the street. A living room and dining room formed an ell, with the kitchen adjacent to the dining area. The stairway led up to two bedrooms and a bath. Decorating was a challenge, but Lindsay enjoyed the task. She canvassed thrift shops and garage sales, filling the space with colorful, tie-dyed fabrics and paisley prints. Numerous pillows tossed around on the floor filled in the gaps between furniture.
By June Lindsay had submitted her thesis and Jack had finished his student teaching. Throughout the summer, Jack submitted resumes while Lindsay focused on the childbirth ahead. In August, Ashton John Kelley was born, weighing in at 8-lbs. 3 oz. Lindsay was in love! The baby, a pink and white and chubby version of his father, captured her heart.
Jack began teaching at a local high school and Lindsay spent her days reading, sleeping, and caring for the baby, who was wonderfully good. He ate and slept on schedule, making her feel competent and joyful. Evenings were filled with conversations with Jack, with all their favorite music playing in the background. One of these had become their song. Sometimes, Jack strummed on his guitar, singing the Bread tune…I want to make it with you…just to bring back those early days.
Lindsay occasionally hosted parties for the old gang, but the domesticity turned some of their radical friends off, so the get-togethers became less frequent.
Then, when Ashton was just four-and-a-half months old, Lindsay felt the familiar sensations again: nausea, sleepiness, and a general lethargy, and feeling stupid, she realized that she was pregnant again. This could not be happening! Just when she had begun to sort out how she would start her career! Confirmation came with her doctor’s visit. A new baby would be coming again in August.
With the birth of Summer Rain Kelley in August 1972, Lindsay felt overwhelmed, but tried to make the best of things. Ashton, barely a year old, had been an incredibly easy baby. He toddled around the townhouse apartment, while Lindsay performed the endless tasks of feeding, diapering, and doing laundry for another baby. Sometimes she felt like a sleepwalker, barely conscious and going through the motions.
One morning in November, when Summer was three months old, Lindsay started to feel some control over her days again. Summer started sleeping at night and the colicky spells seemed to be a thing of the past. Feeling energetic and even excited, Lindsay pulled on her jeans and a hooded sweatshirt and started getting the children dressed. “We’re going bye-bye, Ashton! Summer, we’re going on an adventure!”
“Go bye-bye,’’ Ashton mimicked, eagerly reaching up to put his arms into the coat sleeves. Lindsay zipped up his jacket, tied his hood, and secured him in the rear of the twin stroller. With Summer’s infant seat in front, off they went. On the street to the shopping mall, Lindsay inhaled the autumn air and felt her spirits rise. Summer began to coo, while Ashton clapped his hands.
They spent the afternoon in the mall. Summer fell asleep to the motion of the stroller; when she awakened, Lindsay found an outdoor café and fed the children from her well-stocked shoulder bag. “I think I can do this,” she chanted. “All I have to do is get organized and I can make this work.” Glancing around, she noticed other young mothers pushing strollers, and while most of them didn’t have two under two, she felt that in some ways, the closeness would be an advantage. Their schedules would be more similar. At least she wouldn’t be rushing off to play groups for Ashton, while working around an infant’s schedule. Feeling encouraged, Lindsay felt a new determination growing inside.
Over the next few weeks, Lindsay began to approach the parenting role as a “professional” would a new career. She read all the books she could get her hands on. Even though she had studied psychology and child development in college, she had discovered more specific handbooks covering the practical aspects of the art of mothering. She found one author who described how she had had several small children under the age of five, and how she had organized her life and her home, making the task not only more efficient, but more pleasant as well. Lindsay felt challenged and excited.
Mornings now ran more smoothly. Every day, Ashton awakened first, around five-thirty, and Lindsay found that giving him a bottle in his crib would satisfy him for awhile and allow her to get ready to feed and change Summer. Once she had settled Summer in after her bottle, she could then fix Ashton’s breakfast of cereal and an egg, along with Jack’s coffee, eggs, and toast. She then sent Jack off to work, feeling smug and efficient. She spent the mornings bathing and dressing the children, followed by playtime. A brisk walk to the mall in the late morning helped ease the children into their naps after lunch.
Of course, the whole organizational scheme went out the window when both children caught colds just before Christmas. Housebound, Lindsay thought she would die of cabin fever. She woke up early one morning, and after feeding and medicating the kids, she finally got them to sleep. As she passed the hall mirror, she happened to glance at it. Reflected back at her was a stranger! Who was this person and how did she get here? Her hair straggled around her pale face. Her eyes, with no makeup, seemed to have lost their luster. She glanced down and noticed that she was still wearing the sweatshirt and jeans she’d had on yesterday, and the day before! She did laundry everyday, but somehow, she’d forgotten to do her own. Grabbing together a load of her own laundry, and lugging the basket with the babies’ stuff, she headed for the facilities in the carport. She saw her next door neighbor there and they fell into conversation.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m drowning in all this stuff!” Lindsay laughed as she loaded the washer. “You have two small ones, too, don’t you? Any secrets you want to share?”
Her neighbor grinned, shaking her head, while transferring her laundry from the washer to the dryer. “No, but it might be fun to talk about it. My name’s Colleen. I’m sure you’ve seen my munchkins, maybe even heard them,” she added apologetically. “Why don’t we treat ourselves to a cup of coffee when we’re done. My place or yours?”
Lindsay studied the friendly face. Slender, with dark hair and green eyes, the woman who had seemed older at first, and maybe wiser, someone who could be a mentor, had suddenly become young and even pretty as her smile softened the planes of her face. Quickly, Lindsay spoke: “Why don’t you come over to my place; my kids are napping. In a half-hour or so?” So it was done. A casual exchange in the laundry room had started a sisterhood.
So it began. Lindsay and Colleen spent days together at one or the other apartment, talking, watching the kids play, and sometimes, when they felt especially ambitious, they loaded up the VW bus and headed to the park, especially as the days became nicer. This took a lot of energy, but in the end, proved to sustain them for awhile.
“I am so excited that we have discovered team parenting,” Lindsay greeted Colleen one day in the New Year. “We have demonstrated that, once again, anything can be accomplished when intelligent adult women put their minds to it!”
Colleen smiled. “I agree. And Abigail and Amanda are benefiting as well. I can’t remember seeing them as happy as they have been in the past three months. I’d like to stay at home with them until they start school, but I do believe I was going stir crazy there for awhile. It’s been a long flu season.”
Lindsay nodded. “You know, I’ve been wanting to go to work, at least part-time, but hated the idea of leaving the children in a day care home or center. Would you be at all interested in watching them if I do this? I would pay you, of course, but I could also watch your kids sometimes when I’m not working, and allow you to get out once in awhile. What do you think?”
Colleen agreed that this warranted further discussion, so together they put the children down for their naps in the two upstairs bedrooms. Abigail and Amanda curled up on Lindsay’s big waterbed, covered with a patchwork quilt. Ashton and Summer went down in their own beds in the brightly colored nursery, where the walls featured cheerful, framed prints, and a border painted in letters and numbers in primary colors. Once the children were settled, the women descended the stairs and began picking up toys and stashing them under the stairway; Lindsay had transformed the space there into a playhouse for the children. When all was orderly again, Lindsay poured wine for them and touching glasses, she offered a toast to the beginning of a new phase in their lives. They then sat down at the old pine table, pulling up the rattan chairs, and formulated a plan. As the afternoon wound down, they lit the scented candles in the center of the dining table and on the rattan trunk that served as a coffee table. Moving to the worn sofa covered with a bright, paisley throw, they curled up at opposite ends, continuing their conversation.
With the beginning of a friendship and support system, Lindsay saw a way to reach some of her other goals. She began submitting resumes. In April, when Summer was eight months old, she started working for the County of Sacramento, in the child welfare section. Initially, her work would be part-time. As planned, Colleen took care of Ashton and Summer in the afternoons while Lindsay was at work. In the mornings, she and Colleen spent time together, and sometimes Colleen went out on her own to do errands or meet up with other friends. It was a plausible solution.
* * *
Lindsay felt passionate about her work. She spent her days in dingy government offices, but her primary efforts were in the field as she visited her clients. Her job was to protect children from abuse and provide services to the families so that they could be reunited. Each case assigned to her represented a family needing services. With court orders specifying what those services would be. It sounded simple enough, but as she became oriented to the task, she soon realized how overwhelmingly impossible it all was!
Her first home visits brought her abruptly face to face with a whole different reality. At one home, nobody answered the door for the longest time, but she could hear voices inside. Loud, sometimes shouting voices. When the woman finally answered, she glowered at Lindsay, her body stiff and defensive. She looked like she was coming down from something. She reluctantly let Lindsay in, but once there, Lindsay saw no evidence of the others whose voices she’d heard. She could hear them scurrying away into another room. When she talked to the client, explaining why she was there, the woman just stared at her. Lindsay focused on specific tasks, wrote things down for the client, and spoke encouraging words.
After she left, she felt helpless. She had to find ways to get through to people who didn’t really want her there, who even resented her. Back at the office, she talked to others, listening to their suggestions. Clearly, her educational training hadn’t prepared her for this world.
* * *
By the end of the first week, she had ten files…ten families to reunite! And observing the others, she saw that they had twenty-five to thirty cases each and knew that it would happen to her, too, in just a short time. At the end of her first week, she almost gave up. But she stubbornly pushed ahead. She couldn’t fail at this.
After a week of this, she looked forward to the weekends, spending time with Jack and the kids. They made little dates, trying to remember the old passion, the old glow. It would come back for a little while. A few drinks helped. Through a haze of alcohol, Lindsay could feel that connection again. At other times, the booze only stirred things up between them. Jack snapped at her for the slightest offense, like questioning him about something or other. Jack hated to be questioned. When he got angry, he reminded Lindsay of her father. He could be so intimidating, all fired up like that. She shrank, as she realized that in these moods, he was Gerald Malone all over again. Except that, when his charming self came back, she could see her lover again, and for awhile, all would be well. In the beginning, the dark side stayed hidden for fairly long periods of time. But one day, Lindsay looked around her and saw the shape her life had taken.
It had happened gradually, of course, as life usually does. But one morning, Lindsay seemed to wake up and it was as if she saw Jack for the first time. This man to whom she was married could not face the day without moaning and groaning about something or other; this person who fell into increasingly black moods and displayed occasional hot flashes of temper…He was not the same man she had loved, back in the beginning. She knew she had changed, too, of course. She often reacted to his moods with fear and paranoia, railing out against him. His anger reminded her of the black rages of her father and she felt helpless again. Her only sense of power came from her work. Therefore, every morning of this new life, she went through the routines so that she could charge off to her office. But she began to ask herself what was left of the two people they had been?
One residue of their former lives had not disappeared: alcohol, and occasionally pot, were still center stage as they attended parties and neighborhood socials in an attempt to find new common interests.
Colleen Baskin and her husband Dave joined Jack and Lindsay for get-togethers. A budding social network grew from a few neighbors with young children, extending to include teachers with whom Jack worked. Lindsay did not socialize with people from her job in the beginning, since her hours were only part-time, and there were fewer opportunities to forge a personal connection.
Summer days served as a natural backdrop for casual social activities, generally beginning with a barbecue on someone’s patio. Sometimes these events included the children, but often the parents, eager for adult-only interactions, found sitters. Those adult occasions featured alcohol as a lubricant for social exchange; however, the downside displayed itself when one or more of the adults drank too much. All were living stressful lives, contributing to their tendency to let loose during a party. Jack, charmingly social, often flirted conspicuously with the other women in the group. Feeling vengeful, Lindsay would react in kind. Then they would argue.
By the end of the summer, Lindsay had become frustrated by her part-time status at work and by the nagging feeling she carried around with her…Is this all there is? One night, feeling especially wounded by Jack’s behavior at a party, and releasing her accumulated frustrations, she threw out an ultimatum. “I’m really sick of my second-class status in this family! Because I work part-time, I still have to do the lion’s share of the household chores. I still have to put your needs first and I don’t get any acknowledgement for having a real career. I want a real partnership here, or we’ll have to talk about other options.”
Jack set his glass of scotch down on the table and hooted at her. “Well, look who’s feeling her independence! Do you think that working full-time is the answer? Do you really want to take that step? If you do, you may live to regret it. You won’t be able to get back these years with the kids. They’ll only be small once and someday you may wonder where their childhoods went.”
His words struck her like an assault weapon, abruptly leaving her silent and defeated. She finished her glass of wine and began getting ready for bed. Maybe now was not the time to rush into anything. Besides, she was not really thinking clearly at the moment. “Sorry, Jack,” she murmured. “I think we’d better table this discussion until another time.”
* * *
Gia and Jordan, and many of the others from their radical groups, had moved on to other things. Gia was working as a lobbyist, spending her days at the Capitol. Lindsay heard that Jordan had moved out of state. One night, on the evening news, she saw Gia, talking to a newscaster about environmental issues. She felt proud of her friend, but sad as she realized that a gap had widened between them. Looking over at Jack, who was grading papers while she watched the news, an emptiness crept into her soul. Was there anything holding them together any longer? Had their time together in college been their best and brightest moment? The children were beautiful and healthy, for which she was eternally grateful, but surely she and Jack needed more than their progeny to maintain their connection.
* * *
With the birth of the children, a new relationship had developed between Lindsay and her in-laws. Margaret and Liam Kelley lived in a lovely, sprawling home in the suburbs and enjoyed entertaining family and friends on the weekends. Jack’s siblings, Bridget and Erin, who were two and three years younger, respectively, were attending college in the Bay Area, but joined the family for many of these weekends. On a Sunday in early fall, Jack and Lindsay loaded the children into the bus and drove out to the senior Kelleys home for a Sunday dinner. “Hi, kids,” Margaret greeted warmly. “It’s wonderful to see you. Come on in.” She then took Ashton and Summer inside, where she brought out various toys and games for their amusement, while Liam fixed drinks for everyone. Bridget and Erin adored the children and could be counted on to baby-sit on occasion.
“How’s work?” Margaret addressed each of them. Jack jumped right in, describing his activities and challenges, while Lindsay remained silent. To be fair, Margaret was not granting more weight to Jack’s career; he was just more assertive, more self-confident. He knew how to take center stage, a role he had played throughout his life, while Lindsay, in moments of insecurity, reverted to the passive role she had assumed in her childhood. Lindsay knew she had only herself to blame. If she really wanted to express herself, she had to take the initiative. Despite this awareness, Lindsay felt slighted and “less than.”
With effort, she pushed these feelings aside and engaged Margaret in conversation about the children. An adoring grandmother, Margaret was soon enchanted by stories of Ashton’s verbal skills and Summer’s imitative games. “I can’t believe some of the things he says,” Lindsay bragged. “And Summer, well, she’s a charmer. She tries to sing! And she adores Ashton, following him all over the place.”
Margaret then got out her camera, snapping several impromptu moments, while the children, ever camera-friendly, performed for the doting adults. Ashton, at two, now sported a little boy’s hairstyle, with bangs in front. Summer’s reddish blond curls sprang around her dimpled cheeks, adding a cherubic aura. Lindsay temporarily forgot the earlier “slights” and joined in the festivities. She really felt closer to the Kelleys than to her own family, and grateful for the opportunities for family togetherness, she began to relax.
Thoughtful on the ride home afterwards, Lindsay broached the subject of work. Jack seemed to be feeling content and relaxed from an entertaining and family-oriented day and thus, more receptive. Confidently, Lindsay spoke: “Jack, I think I need to make some changes at work.”
“Now that Summer is over a year old and Ashton is two, I think that I should change to a full time schedule. Colleen has agreed to watch them for now. When they are older, I think a preschool program would be good for them. If I don’t do this now, I risk stalemating my career.” And I think I’ll die if I don’t do something more with my life, she cried out silently.
“Okay,” Jack agreed. “I’ve never been opposed to that. I just want you to be sure that’s what you want to do. I’ll certainly help out more, if that’s what it will take. After all, we could use the extra money.” He seemed so calm and rational. But that’s how he could be when he felt in control. Now it was within his control to grant this benevolent favor to his wife.
Never mind, Lindsay thought secretly. She had gained some ground and she wanted to push it while she had the advantage. Lindsay continued the discussion after they had put the kids to bed. Sitting at the table, they charted out some household chores and a proposal for managing all the family responsibilities. Lindsay always felt more in control when everything was down on paper. Charged up by their progress, she engaged Jack in conversation about their long-term goals, as individuals and as a couple. Afterwards, she felt closer to him than she had in awhile. They made love, with almost reckless abandon, but lying there quietly after Jack fell asleep, she thought about how she had secretly started taking the pill and wondered how long it would be before Jack started questioning why she didn’t get pregnant again. Sometimes, despite his apparent agreement with her choices, she suspected that he really longed to keep her “barefoot and pregnant”!
* * *
Their days formed a pattern. Lindsay fed and dressed the children quickly, taking them over to Colleen’s apartment next door. Then she straightened up the apartment and got herself ready. Driving to work, sipping her coffee, she planned out her day. The thirty-minute commute to the downtown offices helped her transition. Listening to the radio while she drove usually relaxed her and helped her get in the right frame of mind for the hectic day ahead. From the moment she arrived at the office until she left at the end of the day, she seldom had time to think about anything else. She touched base with Colleen at some point, to check on the kids. Then she quickly re-focused on the cases and the families with whom she worked.
Now that she was working full-time, she began to develop relationships with other social workers, one of whom was Vanessa Shaeffer. They occasionally shared lunch while discussing their cases. They first met over a consultation and Lindsay was struck by Vanessa’s self-confidence, coupled with a wide range of knowledge. This she had achieved through exposure to many divergent experiences. Physically, she was short and blond, with a pert nose lightly sprinkled with freckles. Her shaded eyeglasses were often perched at the end of her nose, while she gazed at people over the top. She wore peasant dresses in the summer, but in the fall and winter, she draped herself with Indian style ponchos. Once they had discovered common bonds in their personal lives, Lindsay and Vanessa ventured into the occasional social activity after work with their husbands.
New Year’s Eve 1973 found Jack and Lindsay attending a party at the Shaeffer’s, along with several other compatible people.
Vanessa’s husband, William Arden Shaeffer, taught anthropology at Sacramento State. In contrast to his wife, Bill was very tall, almost lanky, with dark hair worn shoulder length. His horn rim glasses and short goatee, when combined with his penchant for casual slacks and tweed jackets, lent a professorial look to his appearance. Lindsay thought he was somewhat pompous, but she kept these thoughts to herself. She felt lucky to be included in these social events. Stimulating, intellectual discussions formed a backdrop for these occasions. Most of the women also had careers, and on this night, several of them talked about the Equal Rights Amendment. Lindsay and Vanessa both now wore ERA bracelets, which they proudly displayed. Toasting equality, Lindsay and Vanessa downed their drinks.
Someone pulled out a deck of cards and a game ensued. By the end of the evening, most party guests were slightly inebriated.
Vanessa brought out a plate of brownies, while the few remaining guests oohed and ahhed in anticipation of the “special” treat.
“Alice B. Toklas, hello!” laughed Jack, while taking a big bite of the “laced” goody. After a few more bites, Jack made amorous overtures to one of the other women. Lindsay pretended not to notice, but inwardly fumed. She nibbled on her brownie, turning her attention elsewhere.
Afterwards, she and Jack argued. “Why can’t you, just once, keep your hands to yourself at a party?” Lindsay glowered. “Do you always have to be such a Leo?”
“Listen to the Scorpio, trying to control everything,” Jack smirked. “Since when does everything have to be so serious? Why do you have to be so possessive?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you totally ignore me at these parties. I wouldn’t mind getting some of your charm once in awhile!”
They rode the rest of the way in silence and once inside the apartment, Lindsay stomped upstairs to check on the children. Satisfied that they were peacefully sleeping, she went back downstairs, paid and said goodnight to the baby-sitter, and made another drink.
“Oh, great! As if you aren’t loaded enough already,” Jack sneered. He then poured himself a drink, gulping it down.
Lindsay sat down on the sofa, glaring. She had barely touched the drink, feeling chastened by Jack’s remarks. She didn’t really need this drink. It was something to hang onto when she felt so out-of-control. Why couldn’t she make her life go the right way? She felt so in-control at work. Why did marriage have to be so hard? Why did she feel so insecure about Jack?
A few minutes later, Jack mumbled an apology. “I’m such a boor,” he whispered, in that seductively familiar voice. He sneaked up behind her, gently snuggling against her and the next thing she knew, they were in the bedroom making love. Afterwards, though, she felt used. And nothing had changed. She still felt insecure and out-of-control…