So I had my first boyfriend, Dennis Jones, and I had the horse that Mom and Dad had generously given me for my 16th birthday. And I had the fancy sewing machine, with all the bells and whistles, that my grandmother had given me.
Life should have been pretty good for me, you would think. And I wasn’t unhappy at home, just a little bored with good old Mom and Dad in the typical way that teenagers find their parents to be dull and predictable.
I was going through a bad spell at school, though. Once upon a time I’d been a straight-A student, but my grades had been on a steady decline for several years. In 11th grade, I especially detested typing, gym, and geometry. My geometry teacher, Mrs. George, had frightening eyebrows penciled artificially in what looked to me like the obtuse angles of a geometry proof.
Plus, I’d started getting into trouble for skipping school, which was the main way Dennis and I spent time together. While his mom was at work, we’d go to his house and listen to the latest records. We were enthralled with Cream, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane. We liked the pseudo-mythological world depicted in songs like Cream’s “Those Were the Days”:
When the city of Atlantis stood serene above the sea,
Long time before our time when the world was free.
Dennis and I created our own world of imagination that left not a bit of room for common sense. It is rather astonishing (and lucky) that of the famous triad of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, we partook of the last of the three and not so much of the first two, beyond a lot of smooching plus smoking Camel nonfilters. I think Dennis had some ideas on those subjects, though.
Mrs. Jones got wind of the school skipping, and Dennis was in hot water. She started getting on his case. Life at home became pretty unpleasant for him. A month or so into the school year, Dennis began talking about how cool it would be to run away to California. How would we get there? How would we make a living there? What about not finishing school? Not to worry. We’d figure out something.
But what about the horse? What about my nice Mom and Dad? What about, um, the real world? Somewhere along the way, the balance tipped, and going to California became more important than everything else. When we were chewed out in the principal’s office for skipping school, we made the decision. We were going to run away from home.
And we actually did have an idea of how we would get there. It involved the sewing machine.