Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Lesson In Judging

It was 1975, I think.  My parents had just reconciled after a painful separation,  and we had found a little house on VanBuren street in a brand new town. 

Our next door neighbor was Mrs. Winterholler, and she was an incredibly nice person.  She was a widow, and very independant.   She had brokered the friendship between her grandchildren Lisa and Sean with my sister and I, and we were thrilled each time they visited from the far away city of Seattle.

One summer day, shortly after moving in, we were working in the flower garden in the front yard with my dad, and Mrs Winterholler’s  son Mike, pull up in his car.  Before going inside his house, he came over to the fence  with a big smile on his face, said “Hi”, and shook my dad's hand.  Sherri and I had met him before, but it was my father’s first time.   They chatted for a minute and everything felt….easy, and friendly.  

As soon as he disappeared however, I clearly remember my dad turning to us with a scowl on his face.  “Stay away from that Hippie” he said.   I was confused .  Why did I have to stay away from Mike?  He was a nice guy!  He had cool clothes and long brown hair that he sometimes wore in a ponytail.  Besides, he was super friendly... long hair or no.   (The truth is, his hair wasn't really 'that' long, it only came down to his shoulders.  But to my dad that was a symbol of everything that was wrong with the world at that time). 

This was just before Mikes impending wedding to a girl named Cyndy.  The reception was to take place at his mother's house and Lisa and Sean told us there were going to be a lot of people.  When we found an invitation in our mailbox for their reception, my sister and I were beyond excited!  My dad refused to go of course, but my mom...probably not wanting to be a rude neighbor,  said she would take us. 

That night we were dressed in our sunday best and walked next door.  It was so exciting!   Lisa and Sean had been right, there were all sorts of people, and  I remember Mrs Winterholler giving us a tour of her house.   Surrounding an open doorway, someone had painted a vine with beautiful leaves.    My sister and I ooohed and ahhhed over how cool it was.  Mrs Winterholler explained that Mike had painted it when he was in high school, and my mother warned me 'not to get any ideas' which made everyone laugh. 

We heard cheering in the front room when Mike and Cindy arrived.  They looked amazing to my eight year old eyes.   Mike was handsome in his suit (I think it was blue), and Cindy was flower child perfection with her vibrant orange hair that was really, really long.  Her dress had an empire waist, and as I recall,  she had flowers in her hair.   

I thought they were glamorous.  We stayed long enough to have some cake and then went home. 

Years passed, we moved to another house in another neighborhood and life went on.  

The next time I saw Mike and Cindy was at Sean's funeral.    

Fifteen years later, I’m friends with him on Facebook.     

I can’t think of Mike without thinking about my dad.  That “hippie” he was so judgmental about, raised a family, finished college and has taught acting for decades now.    Mike has always been an object lesson for me about judging other people.   I remember my father’s prejudice and I think of how amazing a person Mike was, and is today.    

Sadly, he and Cyndy are now separated, their marriage a casualty of time I guess.  But to me I will always remember them both through the lens of my youth…as that pony tailed hippie with his shockingly red-haired wife at their wedding reception.   A happy, glamorous couple from 1975.

Note:  The picture in this post is not of Mike & Cyndy.


Sam said...

That girl looks like Varla Jean Merman lol! Nice essay Geoff. Very sweet.

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