A few days after I left for my freshman year of college, my mother wrote me this story.
When I left home for the first time, I was 20, and it was 1964. The first Beatles record had come out that summer, and I took the Silver Meteor with my sister Susan up to D.C. She was a candidate for the FBI, and I went on after a few days up to Massachusetts. I left at misty dawn from Union Station, having to call myself a cab, and being cool about ordering cabs by that time. But I had such a heavy suitcase I couldn’t hand;e it, and porters were being phased out, contrary to my mother’s memories of Southern Hospitality on the Silver Meteor.
My original idea had been “early Hippie” in that I wanted to take off with my guitar and blue jeans. I was, however, a wimp, and my mother’s idea was suit, heels and stockings, with suitable dress for teas in Massachusetts. Mother won. My alternative, admittedly, was to run away on my own, and since I wouldn’t know how to go about that now, I certainly didn’t then. Anyway, from dawn to dark I rode that train. Past the sea, and the marshes of the New England coast. Actually, they came after New York City, which I went through, pulling into the underground station, echoing and dark and totally foreign, and then over the CIty on the elevated. I crossed the City over tenements, and the City lay under a yellow cloud, always in the distance.
I was scared and starving, and I didn’t know how to order sandwiches. They had vendors on the cars, passing up and down, calling their wares. You wouldn’t think getting a chicken salad sandwich would terrorize a twenty-year old girl.
It was raining in Boston, and dark, when I arrived. The conductor, or someone in a blue uniform, helped with my suitcase, with much to say. Think of a street character on Cagney and Lacy. Edie was right there, and I fell into (or onto, considering our relative heights) her arm and broke into loud tears. Edie was cool. She took me to a nice restaurant and fed me the amount of solid food a young person can comfortably put away, and then we went home.
Home was on the curve of a calm, reflecting river, willows on the bank, the turning autumn trees drifting into the wood smoke that hazes New England.
Anyway, as least I’ve made some positive motions towards getting somewhere. I decided that if you could make such heady decisions at 17, I had no reason to be a wimp at 42.
When was the first time you left home?