Friday, April 09, 2004

There is a greater magic than what was experienced ...

during the life-changing decades of the late 60s, 70s and 80s. Those years represent an example of the extraordinary challenges and events of one ordinary woman's life. When left free to roam, my mind is very selective in what it nudges back into consciousness. On closer look, I'm aware of the many-layered existence I was living in those years. The mother in me continued to be active and the aware of just where each of my children was in time and space. That was always bubbling just beneath the surface. There were frequent visits to The Cedars to visit with Dorian, even during those high times in Academia. There was a very deliberate letting go of my boys -- very much a conscious effort -- and sometimes costly, emotionally. Feeling the guilt of finding happiness without them, even while I yearned for the life we'd shared in those early years. Constant worry about Rick, my "trouble child." Wonderings about the sensitive poet, Bob, who was so much my child, and wondering whether his wanderlust would ever be satisfied enough for him to embrace adulthood? All the while hoping that he would keep enough of the child-poet alive and productive. And would he find the balances between those poles?

And all the while -- for all of those years -- I needed to keep enough of the faithful daughter alive to assume the care of my aging parents. My father spent his last ten years blind and bedridden -- died at 95 in 1987 after a productive life. Mother lived to be 101, passing on in 1995 after Bill and I were no longer married and I'd gone through yet another metamorphosis and into a life of single independent woman. Through assuming the running of two households with the help of Lou (a wonderful practical nurse and caretaker who loved them almost as much as I), I managed to do it all. But the real challenges were yet to unfold.

My marriage to Bill lasted ten years, and ended with his continuing personal journey into Tibetan Buddhism. We'd divorced as agreed, but the reasons were not nearly as clean and imaginative as we'd planned. The demands upon my time by family obligations had eaten into our times together. He was involved in world travel that I could never be free enough to participate in. The carryover obligations -- his to two older sisters (who were appalled at his having married a woman of color!) -- and mine to my parents and kids -- took their toll. The research project eventually ended and evaluation completed. Our lives together rachetted down to a more normal level, and I became less and less enamored with university life. But not before we'd had years of rich cultural and social lives that embraced the changing world whole-heartedly. I'd crowded a quarter-century into a single decade of existence. I'd had a decade of being both a wife and "only child" to a man some 6 years older than I, and who'd never been a father.

My life in the suburbs had ended abuptly as I became increasingly captivated by my new life of the university. I became increasingly political and less and less involved in my music and writings. Those intellectual giants I'd come to know so well turned out to be not unlike all the "regullah" people I knew. They were the worried parents of many of those young rebels wandering the Haight-Ashbury in tie-dyed garments and floral wreathes. There was alcoholism and drug abuse -- often well-hidden. There were as many troubled wives and philandering husbands as I'd known elsewhere in life. There were petty jealousies that I've never have imagined possible in anyone who'd reached that level of academic achievement. That world was peopled by the same kinds of folks I'd always known. There was far less variation despite social, economic, and educational levels. The differences seemed to be that in the world of the Academy, there were many more people who knew a great deal about a highly specialized area of life, and otherwise -- were as human as the rest of us. It was more of a learning experience than I might have imagined, and prepared me well for the next decade when I would find myself having to adjust to the world of a welfare community -- primarily African-American -- where our store was located -- and where I would soon find myself living most of my daytime life as a "Black Merchant Social Activist."

Once there, and armed by the campus experience, I was able to see youngsters deep in the drug trade -- not as "King Pins," but as Mother Johnson's grandson, and Mrs. Brown's nephew. Seeing the humanity in campus life as apart from the life roles we chose for ourselves, enabled me to see those who lived near our store outside their roles, as well. and to quickly find my way into that world.

Maybe the beginning of that was having learned to separate Billy Sosinski from the impressive persona that Dr. William F Soskin had created for himself. I loved them both. Unfortunately, Bill never did. He spent a lifetime over-achieving -- in the effort to prove himself. He provided a prism through which I could see almost as much as the insights he claimed through his spiritual practices. Or at least that's how it seemed. I learned never to let on that I could see his Billy self, but he was there behind that huge shadow cast by his alter ego, always.

Wrote my last song early in my relationship with Bill:

He was busy in the downstairs library -- writing furiously on a new continuation grant application. I was upstairs in our bedroom filling in the time with my guitar. Stumbled on a musical phrase and entered the familiar altered state out of which would come new music. There was always that feeling of ecstasy -- of opening up -- then the words and music would come -- all of a piece. The newest song was always the most beautiful! As usual, in about 15 minutes it was completed. The process was less like composing, than of simply moving something out of one level of consciousness to another. Years before when this first started to happen to me, my psychiatrist describe it to me as very natural. I'd seen it as a symptom of mental illness, and feared each new event. He convinced me that it was anything but that. "Those who create provide the road that others will follow. You do not follow maps, you create them. I would prefer that you not tamper with your process with lessons and rules. Create!" It took a while, but I eventually believed him. The music continued to come. Once created, without ever being written down -- a song would remain precisely as created. Not a note or a word would change. At some later point I would tape it. I can close my eyes today and bring each song back -- whole.

On that evening -- for the first time since we met -- I was writing again. In the excitement of having produced one more "most beautiful song in the world," I picked up my guitar and ran quickly downstairs to interrupt Bill's work to be audience to this new piece.

He dutifully turned from his typewriter and gave full attention. I strummed a few chords and sang my simple song. He listened attentively then said, "that's quite lovely, dear. But when you get it polished a bit more -- I'm sure it will please you even more." I was crushed. He didn't understand at all why I was so obviously confused and disappointed. He followed up with, "...I'll call the university music department tomorrow. I'm sure that we can arrange to have you enter as a special student, if you'd like. Think of how much more satisfying it will be when you can have the pleasure of polishing and editing and working toward just the precise word required to express your thoughts...".

"But it's all there!" That's what I mean, Bill. I don't want to "polish and edit and work toward just the precise word" at all. If I tried to do that, it would turn into something else! That is what I meant in the moment this was written. The next moment will include this moment, and that would produce something quite different." I was talking nonsense, and could now see his confusion. We were ships passing in the night. He was talking about music composition. I was talking about making up songs. This I could do at the age of 8. This was the little girl who -- at about 14 read Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence for the first time and immediately went out to the backyard to sing it. It needed singing!

I never wrote again during our years together. But, somewhere deep inside I firmly believed that those composers in the university's music department were striving to do precisely what I seem to have been born to do. And that, maybe living inside my poet, Bobby, who listens to his Muse and refuses to be distracted -- living out that side of ME -- he's paying for it in ways I can't quite comprehend, even now. But then, maybe that's a selfish read on something that has little to do with me. Maybe -- once thrust into the world -- those genetic markings have created their own being -- offspring who make of them what they will, as stimulated by their own life processes.

There are days when I find it hard to separate myself from Bob. He carries as much of my genetic makeup as David does of Mel's. David has Mel's original steadfastness, dependability and sense of purpose. He's fatherly, even in the face of two failed marriages. Is a single father with full custody of four youngsters under his wing and a family business to run. Rick's biological mother was Irish and pre-read law books for a publishing firm in the MidWest (learned this from her bio furnished by the adoption agency). Have always suspected that he spent a lifetime battling fetal alcoholism, that his analytical mind came from this woman he'd never known. Looking at it that way, that Bob should be strumming his way through life, working with Young Audiences, working with music composition with school children fits the mold. That such a life is as complex and unpredictable is a truth I know well. It has a very different set of rewards and challenges -- unspeakable highs and devastating lows.

I remember those years of exploration with Dr. Neighbor; of the touching down into the hell of mental confusion only to spring into exultation a few hours later. One day we'll talk about all that, but neither of us has ever seemed quite ready for that conversation -- but one day we will be ... I'm sure of it. For me -- this was the road not taken. Maybe he can tell me what it's been like. I've been quietly envious of his kind of world-changing, and of his pride in the doing of it. But I've been saddened by his down places, the losses he's had to survive. And terribly proud of his accomplishments.

Photo: Son, Robert Thomas Reid, taken in my late father's tuxedo. He very thoughtfully chose to wear it to Dad's funeral rites and later gave this photo to me as a gift. Circa 1989.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

There was a strange but exciting phenomenon ...

happening in the Greater Bay Area during those years of the late Sixties, Seventies, and early Eighties. Like a giant magnet, or vortex of some powerful force -- we were caught up in unpredictable times of great social change, and most of it was being born right here in the eye of the hurricane. This great liberal-progressive social climate came into being -- not because this was our reality, 'til that time we in the Bay Area were a pretty ordinary polyglot of human beings living a fairly ordinary lifestyle with all of the limitations of middle America. But because liberal-progressives from around the world perceived it as the Progressive Capital of the World they brought it into being as a self-fulfilling prophecy simply by settling here.

Tuptin and Sang Sang - gifts fom Tarthang Tulku
In a few short years, that heady world of the Academy was impacted by that in-migration of intellectuals from every field of study. We were the home of the development of the A-Bomb at UCB and its sister facility, Los Alamos, the original birthplace of the United Nations, the Stanford Accelerator, more Nobelists than any other area on the planet, the original site of the school desegration experiment (Berkeley's busing program), the Free Speech Movement and the point of origin for the Mississippi Freedom Summer. It was the birthplace of Werner Erhardt's EST, and much of the Human Potential Movement grew out of the work at Esalan under Fritz Perls et al, the Zen Center in Green Gulch, and Tassajara. Living on the edge of the continent, an emerging and fragile peace movement, at the cutting edge of a social revolution that would change the world, the excitement was almost palpable. There was electricity in the air -- and positive change on everybody's agenda.

Since all of this was happening in my very own backyard so-to-speak, there was a circus-like atmosphere to it. It was all larger than life, and it wouldn't have surprised me one bit if I'd awakened one morning to find all of the circus tents gone! Bill and his world were a large part of that. I loved it all with a passion and fully participated but with a healthy skepticism that kept me aware that -- like the Flower Children in the Haight -- this was only partly real and partly pageantry of a kind I'd never experienced. There's a lot of that left in me. The full test came later, and despite the phantasmagorical(!) addition of the Tibetan Buddhism siddhis into my vocabulary -- I never did become a convert.

Bill was one of the more liberal contributors to the Tibetan Refugee Project, for instance. He sent funds freqently to Dharmsala in India and visited that settlement twice during our marriage. On one such visit he chose for me as a penpal Lama Wangdor who had escaped the Chinese invasion in 1987, bringing with him only his mother's colorful "apron garment," two silk brocade shirts, several "Z" stones sewn into his garments, and a scroll. When he reached Rewalser in the Himalayas, he climbed a mountain and lived out the rest of his life in meditation in a barren cave. He lived there, alone, for 14 years. Over time, pilgrims made their way to his cave for religious instructions, and eventually built a temple at the bottom of the mountain as they became converts for his teachings. Lama Wangdor was a gift from Bill. I resisted, however, becoming his student.

I knew no Tibetan, Lama Wangdor, no english. I wrote him nonsensical letters about everyday events in Berkeley -- and occasionally would send a gift package of some sort. Recall at one time that I sent six copies of Arizona Highways(!) just because the photographs were so beautiful. Through an interpreter, Lena Ford (from New York via San Francisco), he wrote wonderful letters to me, some containing unbelievable accounts of events that required the need to either suspend judgement or censor them out entirely. Life changes were coming so fast, that there were no ways to deal with them short of developing some new "pegs" to hang things on (in my head).

One day I received a package from Rewalser. In it were the "apron garment," two silk brocade shirts (exquisitely soft from years of wear), and six "z" stones sewn into the garments. In addition there was a beautiful prayer rug featuring a tiger on a yellow background, and two pairs of brightly knitted vari-colored socks of yak's wool -- in precisely my size. Since there is very little give to yak's wool, the size would have to be perfect. We'd never met. How on earth did anyone know? Yet someone obviously did.

Bill and I enjoyed the company of a longhaired yellow adult cat named Peanut Butter. She'd come with the house. We loved her. After a long time of living together, one day she was killed in traffic and we were devastated! That evening I wrote a letter to Lama Wangdor. By this time it mattered little that he knew no English, he had quite magically become a friend. I was seeking no great Tibetan truths nor great religious instructions. Ours was a friendship that wasn't dependent upon any of that. I spilled out my sense of loss, and felt better.

A few months later there was a call from New Delhi from Lena Ford. She had just taken a bus (two day trip) from Rewalser to New Delhi with a 6 month-old Lhasa Apso and placed him on a jet for San Francisco. Lama had presented me with Peanut Butter's replacement, a puppy from a recent litter from the pack that guarded his temple at the bottom of the moutain. They work with the giant mastiffs that guard the exterior. Lhasas are bred to tell friend from foe, and work on the inside of the temple.

On schedule, I drove to S.F. International airport and right to the baggage depot to retrieve my small white closely-clipped new friend who was housed in a homemade wooden travel crate with Tibetan flags attached. It was love at first sight! His Tibetan name translated to "Lion's Child." Sang Sang was the name we used. We spent 15 years together, he and I, day and night, at home, work, and at play.

It was clear that this little friend had come to the US with very special instructions to take care of me, and that he did.

An example: Some time later I left the university to take over our store due to a changing circumstances. I hired a man to work for me who seemed perfectly normal. My little canine friend hated my new employee and went into a frenzy of barking and growling whenever Sam entered the store. I had to close him up in a back room each day in order to keep him from attacking Sam. Everyone else -- including the occasional customer who wandered in -- could come and go at will. Not so with Sam. It was hard to understand. Sam lasted about a month. It took me that long to discover that he was stealing from the cash register and making off with merchandise. Sang Sang knew. I learned.

Sang Sang would ride everywhere with me. As long as I was in the car, he would be alert and active. In returning to the car at the end of some errand, I could not see him, always lying down -- as if asleep -- on the floor of the front seat. It was as if he would come alive only when I was present, unless some threat was sensed. Not even Bill could approach me unless I was obviously welcoming of his attention. I was told that -- when I left the house on those rare occasions when I couldn't take him along -- he would climb into my closet and sleep on my shoes until I returned, no matter how late the hour.

We shared life for 15 years, until his death. I bought a female Lhasa as Sang Sang grew older and more feeble, so that I could have a puppy to survive him. It proved to be impossible to breed. Sang Sang was one of a kind. He'd entered this country on a mission, and fulfilled it faithfully, but he was not to be cloned.

In the years before Bill's leaving for his extended period of study, Lama Wangdor visited us here in Berkeley. After 15 years, Sang Sang knew him, though he was a very young puppy when sent to the States.

There was much that I never understood in those years, but always believed that my truths would unfold in time. Sang Sang was a part of that. Lama was another. When I apologized to him when we met, "...I just don't understand why I'm so resistant to following these practices as Bill and everyone else does ...," he told me not to fret. "You'll know." "You'll know." It's been many years now, but I'm still questioning. I clearly do not yet know... .

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

About William F Soskin, Ph.D.:

Born Billy Sosinski, in Michigan, son of Polish immigrants Peter and Mary Sosinski, brother of older sisters -- Claire and Dorothy. There was a deep sadness about Bill, the reason for which took many months to unfold. The family lived in Grosse Pointe, but the kids grew up in this very wealthy suburb of Detroit as the children of the school janitor and town drunk. When Dorothy, the eldest, left for college -- she immediately changed her name to Soskin in order to escape the perceived stigma of her Polish ancestry. Claire skipped college and took off for Chicago where she eventually became the chief buyer for womens' wear in the Hudsons Department Store. Bill attended the university and -- at Dorothy's suggestion -- also changed his name to Soskin. That neither was aware that they'd taken on a Jewish name I found really interesting. Bill and I were on countless Jewish mailing lists during our time at the university. So much for name-changing as a way to fold into the mainstream and escape prejudices.

I suspect that meeting Bill at the height of the Black Revolution -- at a time of my own identity crisis -- and the boldness with which I embraced my blackness played a part in our courtship. I was feisty and defiant, insistant upon my right to BE without reservation. It was interesting to me that someone of white skin could have suffered the same kind of racial identity crisis for an entirely different set of reasons; not the least of which was escape from a life of poverty and shame. This learned man, this accomplished intellectual and I were not so different after all, though the path to overcoming the past may have been less difficult for him, or was it? There comes the point where he could escape being Polish and poor and relax into simply being "white" and affluent.

When we met, Bill's world was made up of the leaders of the worlds of psychology, physics, the innovators of the Human Potential Movement that was emerging from Esalan, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. He (and many others) were serious converts to Tibetan Buddhism that they saw as the convergence of physics and spirituality. Timothy Leary lived just down the hill, authors Isaac Asimov and Fritjov Capra, John and Toni Lilly (Dolphin Research) were friends, as were futurists Don Michaels of the University of Michigan and Gay Luce, founder of SAGE, Charlotte Selvers, Sam and Jan Keene of Psychology Today. Their spiritual leader was Tarthang Tulku, Rinpoche, of the nearby Padma Ling, the Tibetan Institute on the border of the campus and across the street from the building that housed our research project.

Bill was consultant to the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California where we both served with then Bishop J. Kilmer (Kim) Myer and Archdeacon John Weaver, on the Vallombrosa Conference planning committee. This was the think tank for the Diocese where, annually, papers were presented on the critical themes of the day. I got to hear Paul Erhlich give his "Population Zero" work that grew into his book; heard the arguments for and against the highly-contested Peripheral Canal, Economist Hazel Henderson predict the economic outlook for the next decade; John and Toni Lilly introduce their dolphin research that had barely begun in Southern California at that time. A parade of the leaders of the time marched through my life in growing numbers.

After years of making oatmeal, wiping noses, kissing boo-boos for four growing kids, I now found myself as curious as a 12 year-old cast into the world of doctoral candidates and professors -- with a thirst for knowing that I was only dimly aware of until that time. Our livingroom was the meeting place for new thought and novelty, and I held a front seat in the theater of the future!

I never felt patronized by either Bill or his brilliant friends. My openness and obvious curiosity about everything must have invited them in. I was never afraid to question and challenge, and Bill's obvious pride in my willingness to participate guilelessly fed my confidence. He was so enabling! My head was spinning with new information, and my curiosity sharpened with each day. Imagine having this world-renowned university literally at my finger tips day after exciting day!

In a matter of months I was brought out from behind the desk in the front office and introduced to co-leading groups of adolescents at the school test sites -- co-leading with doctoral candidates from the university. I was working closely with future psychologists in every phase of the experiment, including reviewing, editing and evaluating reels and reels of videotapes of the work. Eventually able to critique the work with my husband, and listened to as well. Helped to shape grant applications and to write missions statements and budget justifications. Can you imagine? Weekends were spent in seminars at Padma Ling, and Salons in livingrooms in private homes around the university -- with the newsmakers of the day. It as like having a ten year private tutorial toward a non-traditional doctorate.

After several months, Bill came to my desk to ask if I would take a long lunch. He wanted me to see a house he was thinking of purchasing high above Berkeley on Grizzly Peak Boulevard -- overlooking one of the most beautiful vistas on the coast. When we reached the modest home with an overgrown garden, we stood for a minute looking at the view and he said, (our home in Walnut Creek was actually far lovelier, with much more space) "don't want to rush you, Hon, but I'm wondering if you would move into Berkeley and share this home with me? It's just a place where we can get to know one another -- just to see if it would work ...".

We sat for a while looking out over the hills -- and he followed with, " know that I'm studying Buddhism. I don't know at what point it will be, but when the time comes I will be required to enter the monastery and be in total isolation for 3 years. That has been my ambition for many years. I must complete my studies. You must understand that."

I asked for time to consider how that might effect my life, and after much thought -- a few days later told him that I was in a place of decision-making. Told him that my marriage was over, that my home was being seized by the IRS -- that I had no idea whether I would coming to live with him because I loved him, or whether I was simply escaping from an unknown and very uncertain future. In addition to everything else, I was suffering from empty nest syndrone and not nearly ready to face this final separation from my children. His answer a day later was to deposit $5000 in the local bank -- hand me the bank book with my name at the top. Enclosed was a note, "...these funds will always be here. It is your security, to be used if and when appropriate. You can feel free to move on at any time. You'll know now whether you're here because you want to be. Meanwhile, will you marry me?"

Then we agreed that at such time that he felt the need to enter the part of his training that required that period of isolation, we would divorce. Since neither us could be sure just who would return from such an experience -- and since neither of us felt that I should be confined to living in my own version of isolation because of the demands of his religious practice -- we would come together and renegotiate our relationship. And, we would do all of that legally, so that he could feel free to move on -- deeper into his religious experience -- if that's where life led, or that I would continue my own life without him -- or with someone else. We would spend the year before his departure working out the legal plans and consulting with a good therapist. And, we did all of that.

How Berkeley can one get?

Photo: William F. Soskin, Ph.D., Research Psychologist, University of California, Berkeley. His major work was with Project Community, a drug prevention program for teens that grew out of the phenomenon of the Haight-Ashbury Lovefests occurring in San Francisco in the Sixties and Seventies. He served as consultant to the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, as a member of the Vallombrosa Conference, was a candidate for the Club of Rome (Advisory to the Vatican), a devout Tibetan Buddhist, and my second husband . The small pic shows him in retreat at Odiyan, Nyingma Monastary in Sonoma County, California.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Interesting how life continues to be all-of-a-piece ..,

even over what seems eons of time. There's a crazy kind of predictable rationality operating that defies logic.

Yesterday Jennifer and I attended a luncheon at the San Francisco Foundation offices with a group of arts funders from around the Bay. It was my first such meeting as a private citizen, and it took some time for me to resist the urge to identify myself as "field representative for ...". Going to miss that power base, for sure. Not sure just who I am without those business cards. My power no longer emanates from the State of California, and that's significant. In a way it's reminiscent of those days of wondering just who I was without the men in my life to define me, the replaying of an old theme.

After a delicious vegetarian lunch and some exciting informal presentations by program reps and a number of nonprofit execs, it began to feel more comfortable. The problem was that I knew why we were here (locating the source of funds for our ventures in Richmond), but was totally dependent upon Jennifer's expertise to identify the relevance to our goals. Kept trying to generalize from the specific; to figure out just which persons around that huge conference table held the key to our goals, and just which of my personal resources to bring to bear upon that. This would occupy me for the next two hours. Itched to enter the conversations for a bit, but eventually decided that this may be the time to simply listen and learn.

Then it began to dawn on me that those personal resources were made up of being the parent of Bob Reid, Music Resource for the Santa Cruz Schools and Young Audiences (their chief exec was sitting at the other end of the long table), Dorian Reid, National Institute for Artists with Disabilities (NIAD) artist, and as a five year member of the board of directors of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. This was my frame of reference. When I mentioned Bob there was a smile of recognition from the Santa Cruz team, and that felt good. Finally, felt myself settle into the room comfortably, and content to listen without the urge to speak. That's when I know I'm totally there.

Bob's appearances with the UN Children's Choir at the United Nations in New York, his work with Pete Seeger's Hudson River tours and with the National Triplet's Conventions for several years running, his current work with music composition with school children of all ages, as well as his solo performances around the Monterey Bay communities -- in this board room -- became the foundation now for my own work. We've come full circle. The torch has been passed. It felt so right. I am now "Bob Reid's Mother!" In Berkeley, I've already become "David Reid's Mother," since he is now fully identified as owner-proprietor of our family business, "Reid's of Berkeley." It really did work out. Those arrows soared in an arc then fell just precisely where time and life might have predicted.

And...that makes me miss Rick all the more -- to be reminded of my Dorian who will live her life like the bird with the broken wing ... designed to fly, but unable to fulfill the promise for reasons far beyond her control, or mine.

But it's Bob who is with me this morning ... in my imagination ... .

Will call him later.

Monday, April 05, 2004

So ... watched "60 Minutes" in vain ...

Not at all sure whether the piece I'm waiting for is being shown on "60 Minutes" or "60 Minutes II." Not even sure which nights they're shown, but will watch the TV logs for more information. I am aware that the program is divided into thirds, and that those thirds are subject to change -- depending upon what is deemed more relevant by the producers on any given day.

But, back to the past:

Life does have a way of rolling out time in its own fashion. And Central Casting couldn't have done a better job of programming it. Simultaneously with the disintegration of my marriage came an elevation of my role in community life. It was the summer of the Democratic Convention at Miami and -- after all those years of climbing out of the depths of racism -- this same community chose me along with others to represent our congressional district as their McGovern delegates. Over the years, combatting racism had given me a pretty high profile and made me something of a leader among liberals. It would have been pretty hard to not choose one of the very few people of color in the entire eastern part of the county. So I saw it as a mixed blessing and less related to who I was than what I was.

What a tribute it was to receive enough funds from friends (with loving notes tucked in) to not only pay my own costs for travel, but enough to take care of other delegates who didn't have that strong base of support.

So there I was at the Doral Country Club in Miami with the largest delegation in the nation -- right along with delegates Shirley MacLaine, Dolores Huerta of the Farm Workers Union, Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek - just another delegate, though; and Marlo Thomas who was star of "That Girl" at the time. What a time!

It would be wonderful to take the time to describe that experience, but may be too much of a diversion at this point in the narrative. Maybe later. What I really want to say is that I'd left home a modest mommy and I arrived back home from that heady experience a few days later with such a strong sense of self that the great university and its offer of a position seemed quite appropriate. Just a few weeks before that great whirlwind of political activity I was a little suburban homemaker without a lot of confidence in moving about in the larger world. I was a youthful late forty-something with little meaningful job experience. But now I was someone who'd been captured on national television in my red/white/and/blue splendor, had been photographed with the President of Togo (had never even heard of that country at the time), and the Prime Minister of Australia! I'd shared a sandwich with Senator Alan Cranston and had the head of the State Department's San Francisco Reception Center as my seat mate on the flight south. Had pictures taken with presidential hopeful Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, and another done for the home newspapers presenting a bouquet of roses to candidate George McGovern.

And, it was fresh out of this larger than life experience that I returned to Walnut Creek and an job interview with the director of Project Community. It had been scheduled before I left for Miami. I must have been emitting a glow because Dr. Soskin came into the room during the interview and stayed. At the end (it had gone on much too long), my friend, Stanley (director), asked if I thought I would like to join their staff. My very naive response was, "...I don't know if I can really do this work -- being relatively inexperienced in the world of work -- but I'll tell you what -- I'll work for two weeks -- you won't have to pay me -- and then we'll talk about whether this is something that I can manage to your satisfaction." Bill was listening. This was silly, I suppose, but really truthful, and he was obviously intrigued by this quirky, pretty, obviously bright woman. I suspect that my excitement was contagious.

At the end of the interview he asked if I would like to go out for a bite. "Would love to hear more about your Miami adventure, Ms. Reid." We did. I bubbled uncontrollably for another hour. I was still in my paper hat; irrepressible! He was delighted. A week later -- on my birthday -- I drove home to Walnut Creek to find two dozen red roses on my front porch with a card from Dr. William Soskin.

Reported on campus to the personnel department for my formal interview at the end of two weeks. After all, I wouldn't be working for Dr. Soskin, but for the university. The interviewer had me fill out a battery of documents that included one of those identification sheets (that "wasn't for i.d. purposes") with all the little boxes. Still riding on my newfound confidence and buoyed by knowing that I was being sought after by this brilliant, tall, sophisticated, world-traveled, UC professor -- I flippantly marked every box, including "other." The interviewer laughed saying, "no one has ever done that." A practice that would surely grow in the years to come. I must been outrageous -- expressing this newfound confidence of a newly-released mother of four because when the interviewer looked at the starting salary on the yellow sheet, she asked if that was satisfactory -- and if I was being stolen from some other university program! Must have been that glow.

There was one small hitch.

Youngest son, David, was living in town and attending Berkeley high school. As it happened, Project Community was using Berkeley High as one of its experimental sites. David was one of the students in Bill's program and David's mother was not only here at the university, but was involved with the head of the research project. More than a minor complication.

David had been to Europe that very summer. Two years before he'd spent the summer in a work study program with a foreign student from Denmark. They'd worked together in a Swiss hotel and then traveled to his friend's home for the rest of the summer. This summer he and Nina (a little Jewish girl from Southern California) traveled together to Paris, England, Switzerland, Spain, and all the way down to Morocco. in Preparation, Nina's parents had flown up to Berkeley, visited with us for dinner where we became acquainted and discussed ground rules. We presented our two 16 year-olds with EuroRail passes and new sleeping bags and delivered them to the airport the next day. The two kids were in the same class at Berkeley High, and it seemed not nearly as risky as it might be today. It felt right.

Having allowed that kind of freedom for David (and Bob), it may not be terribly strange to learn that they extended to their mother the same kind of trust, with accountability. We'd talked a lot about that kind of stuff, informally, over time. Though out of character, I experienced no objections from the boys. By now Rick had declared his independence. Mel was off on his own (without a formal separation, but living in town, that is), Bob was experiencing his 18 year-old version of emancipation, and Mom was in love! It all sounds a lot more disjointed than it lived out, I think.

Life simply seemed to moved us on that great chess board in ways that reconfigured our relationships, totally. I marvel at the realization that we lived through those fault lines without more trauma, at least than was apparent at the time.

It's only now -- in looking back -- that I wonder whether I was so absorbed in my own experience of emancipation that I may have missed some epochal happenings in the lives of my kids? I'll probably never know the answer to that one. It's probably just as well. Being the bow from which those arrows are launched into space may be all any mother can be. I wonder if we ever really know when the letting go can happen without incident? We've all come back to the source over time, but the ending of our lives as an intact family ended over that fateful summer, and what followed seems unrelated to anything that had gone before.