Sunday, July 22

Romance...and 1968


It was 1968.

I was graduating from high school, closing in on being 18. College was an impossibility and my boyfriend and I had broken up, so the future looked a little…unfocused. But exciting. I’d hated childhood and been an uncomfortable and awkward adolescent and I knew beyond all doubt that adulthood would be better.

And it has been.

I just watched James Taylor in concert (all together now, big sigh) and he talked about it, which got me to thinking of 1968.

Paul Schutzer / Time Life Pictures / Getty
Of that horrible day in June when another verse was added to “Abraham, Martin, and John” with the death of Bobby Kennedy. I’d seen him in person that April, when a tall guy wearing Eugene McCarthy buttons grasped my elbows and led me through the crowd to where I was nearly close enough to touch the train from which Bobby spoke, offering hope and fun to my generation. I could hardly grasp the reality of his death.

Of walking in autumn leaves in Rochester, a small nearby town. It was a warm, delicious taste of freedom. I had a job I had to go to, but my money—what little there was of it—was my own. My clothes didn’t have to meet my mother’s approval or fit my father’s wallet. If I chose to walk in the leaves all day long, I could.

Of stopping at the bookstore every payday and buying the newest Betty Neels, Sara Seale, Violet Winspear, Anne Mather, Essie Summers—more names than I can begin to remember. After reading a few hundred Harlequin Romances, I started to write my own. I didn’t finish one, not for several years, but 1968 was when I knew someday I would.

I got my ears pierced in 1968, wore miniskirts and peace signs and too much makeup. I got thrown out of bars not because I wanted to drink but because it was fun to see if I could get by with going in. I had my heart broken every time I turned around, maybe bent one or two myself.

I loved the music in 1968. Still do—did I mention James Taylor? I loved the cars—Camaros in particular. A boyfriend drove a GTO and I could hear him turn the corner at the end of the block. I’d run to brush my teeth and apply yet another layer of mascara at the sound.

Something else I loved was how romance novels heightened all the senses. I believe if I hadn’t cut my novel-reading teeth on romance, I wouldn’t be able to recall the smell of autumn in Rochester, Indiana. The first sharp political awareness that came to town with Bobby Kennedy would have dulled by now, but it hasn’t. James Taylor’s voice could be just an aging singer’s voice, but it’s more—I feel it all the way to my bones. I can still hear the needle going through my frozen earlobe when a friend pierced my ears. (I passed out then, my head jerked, and the hole is crooked.) I can still smell the bookstore downtown—it was also a tobacco store; what a heady combination for a bookaholic who was also a smoker!

I don’t read romance exclusively anymore, women’s fiction having taken over pride of place in my reading preferences, but I still write it and love it. It is because of romance that 1968 is more than a memory. It’s as living and breathing as though it were only yesterday.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for coming by today. If you have time, swing by http://www.theromancereviews.com/forum/index.php?board=40.0 and see me, too. It's a chat and I don't want to be lonely!

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  2. Beautiful post! Art certainly does etch everything that much deeper...

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    1. It does, doesn't it, Patty? Thanks for coming by!

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  3. "I got thrown out of bars not because I wanted to drink but because it was fun to see if I could get by with going in."

    Too funny!

    I was-ahem-2 yrs old the summer of '68, so it's always fun to know what went on when I was too young to remember it:)

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    1. It is fun, isn't it, to get a feel for what you don't remember? Thanks, Molly.

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  4. I've always thought if I could go back in time, the 60s would be one decade I'd visit. I'd also visit the WWII days - because all those soldiers leaving and big band music and...sigh... I romanticize it waaaaaaay more than I should. Thanks for sharing *your* 1968 with us!

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  5. I do that with WW11 days, too, Kristi, and big-time about civil war days. I loved the 60s, and even though my memory probably colors them glossier than they were, I'm glad to have experienced them.

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  6. I was born in 1968, so it was really cool to read about what the year was like then :-) Great post!

    Shirley

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Shirley. It was truly the best of times--and the worst!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your memories. I was 6. It'd be another seven years before I read my first Harlequin, The Wilderness Hut. I still remember how thrilled and excited I was by the story. A couple scenes still stick in my memory.

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Penny. I don't remember my first one, though there was a romance called THE SILVER CORD that I read in high school. No idea who wrote it.

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  8. I was a year old in 1968. But my mom has a picture of herself during that year. She had a gigantic Afro, wore an army jacket, and huge dark sunglasses.

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    1. LOL. Lots of white people wore Afros, too, and it was like dreads now--they just couldn't carry them off the way African Americans could. I still love the big sunglasses, though. I'm always happy when they're in style so I don't look quite so out of it.

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  9. In 1968, I was six and just starting school in Norfolk, Virginia. I had an adopted southern accent, lived in a small trailer park on Little Creek Road.

    The first romances I read were Rosemund du Jardin's Marci series. Wait for Marci, Marci Catches Up, and two others. They were probably the first YA romance books ever or pretty darn close.

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    1. Oh, I read those, I think. Was her boyfriend Steve? I read the Tobey Hayden series by--I think--the same author. Tobey's boyfriend was Brose, and I loved him.

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  10. Love this post! I have a pic of my mom in 1968 in a maxi dress!

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    1. LOL. I didn't do maxis, only minis. I had some good legs in those days. As you can tell by that horror picture at the top, I needed to accentuate ANYthing I had going for me!

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  11. I loved your post! I was only two in 1968, but I can feel how it was through your writing. This is much the way I feel of the 80s, which were my coming of age time. I'm in southern Indiana and as a side note, my 18 year-old son and his friend just traveled to nearby Evansville a couple of weeks ago to see James Taylor. I really wanted to go myself, but couldn't. I think the times of that generation touches us all.

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  12. Hi, Lori Beth. I'm so glad you came by. I have a son and dil who live in Southern Indiana, too--two more children of the 80s. :-)

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