Friday, October 16, 2009

The Seventies - Part I

He who rides a tiger cannot dismount when he pleases.  ~Author Unknown

The idealism of the '60s curved 180 degrees into the cynicism of the '70s as Watergate took center stage. The flower children began to wilt.

For me, music tells a decade's story. As Dick Clark said, "Music is the soundtrack of your life." Marvin Gaye asked, What's Going On, and we responded, Mercy, Mercy, Me.  Roberta Flack wanted to know Where is the Love? and Aretha told us to Respect ourselves.  Mandela was in jail but Donny Hathaway sang, Someday, We'll All Be Free.  Inexplicably, living in a housing project was Good Times.  Was it Just My Imagination or were we Up, Up, and Away?

I always liked to stay in bed, sleeping or not, just enjoying the warmth and security of my bed.  It's a sunny day in July 1970. The phone rings.  I answer.  Someone wants us in Ann Arbor for a job interview for my husband.  Big joke and I tell them that.  Hang up phone.  Go back to sleep.  Friend calls husband that night and tell him about the call, but they want to know if his wife is crazy.  He doesn't answer.  He's afraid to tell them the truth, might hurt job interview.

OK.  Let's take the free trip but promise me you won't take the job.  Town too small. I love Chicago and couldn't bear to leave my family.  We go to Ann Arbor.  He breaks promise and takes job at the University of Michigan. We say good-bye to family and friends in Chicago.  They don't want us to go. We pack. We move. And so begins a new adventure that will last 31 years.

We found an apartment with four bedrooms and three bathrooms to live in until we found a house.  Pure luxury after living in a 900 sq. ft. home in Chicago. It was strange, we could live anywhere.  No one cared that we were Black.  They only wanted to know if we had the down payment.

I missed Chicago so much that I drove back 27 times the first year.  Right after the children left for school I would get in my car, drive to Chicago, chit chat, drive back to Ann Arbor to fix dinner.  It was a 240 mile trip and my record, that is documented, is two hours and 40 minutes.

No one was hiring and I needed a job.  I discovered that the school system needed someone who knew the Taba Curriculum Development Model, a concept development model for social studies.  I researched the model until I knew it well enough to get through the interview process and finally found myself a job. It was only part-time but it kept me off of I-94.

This was a totally different lifestyle for us. It was casual, free-thinking, intellectual, liberal, and everybody knew everything about you.  In Ann Arbor, football is everything.  Go Blue!

We finally found a home in an area called Glacier Highlands, with an elementary school in walking distance.  Plus, they only had like 20-25 children per classroom. We were the only African Americans in the neighborhood and our children had white friends for the first time in their lives.  They adapted and found their new life exciting and rewarding. You didn't need to lock your doors and boys and girls popped in at any time of the day.

Our home in Ann Arbor.  I loved that redbud tree.

Our oldest son went to middle school the first year and the younger two were in elementary school.  Of course, they all loved sports, and Ann Arbor was the perfect place for young families with athletic children.  Before we knew it our schedule was bursting.  I think this might work out.

David, third from left on back row, baseball team

Corey pitching

Cameron, after falling off his bicycle

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.  


  1. I love these memories - they're so honest, yet light-hearted. And I especially love the references to music. It's going to make me think for several hours about the background music of my life. This will be fun. Thank you.

  2. So, how long did it take for you to forgive him for taking that job? Ha! Did you regret moving or ever want to move back home, even after you'd been there a while?

  3. I believe that things happen for a reason, and sometimes, we just have to go with the flow. I love reading about your memories. I was born in 1972, but I remember the later 70s and the music, and the way my mom dressed back then, her hair. You opened up some lovely memories for me. Thank you!

  4. You are correct that so much of the music we listen to tells our stories.

    As for the move to Ann Arbor and 27 trips home to Chicago, well, it's a good thing he didn't get invited to USC or Portland. Those would be long weekends to get home. 240 miles is a hop, skip and a jump.

  5. Christella (in reference to your comment on my blog): I was tongue-in-cheek with the 'morally superior' description of myself as a book-reader. Sometimes I've felt less than authentic in my intellectual pursuits.

  6. Janie, I'm still TRYING to forgive him and I should because as you'll see in future blogs, it was a great move. My children think it was the most wonderful place for them, especially with the gangs in Chicago.

    Ennyman, yes it is good that it was only 240 miles but I would have done it anyway. After all, I was only in my early 30s.

    Thanks to all the commenters.