Even in a pandemic, I'm still a Boomer Hippie.
Two of my three grown children are millennials, and despite the stereotypes running rampant on social media, neither is underemployed, drowning in debt, or trying to come back home. (They don’t seem to be lacking for sex either, but that’s probably a story for another day.)
Of course, they can’t come back to my house, because I don’t have one. I am homeless.
I’ve been homeless now for 22 months. Not sleeping in my car homeless, but couch surfing, hostel sleeping, living out of my backpack, and taking other people’s leftovers to feed my dog. For the first time in my 60 years, I am without a lease, mortgage or landlord. I have no permanent address outside the mailbox at the UPS store, and no bed to call my own.
And until the pandemic, I was perfectly happy.
I was wandering through Europe, taking whisky tours and art classes. I was sailing Key West, and hiking volcanoes in Central America--enjoying my long-delayed #GapYear. Then I made a quick trip from Costa Rica to California for a funeral, and found myself caught up in the first rush of Covid-19 panic. With my return flight grounded, I had no place to quarantine.
So I asked my daughter and her new husband — ages 32 and 35 respectively — if I could stay with them for a bit, in their trending neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. There was a significant pause before they responded, which I try not to dwell on, but the final answer was yes.
Me. Classic Boomer. Lover of hippies, hater of The Man. Make Love, Not War, baby. Peace, Love and Soul Train.
Me — moving into my millennial children’s basement.
I was expecting us to have a few adjustments. I'm an early riser, brewing coffee at dawn; they're night owls, talking and laughing long into the wee hours. I need quiet time to read; they're blasting (what they call) music every minute. They're news junkies and social media addicts, thriving on drama and anxiety--stuff I can't handle without medication.
But I was in for a few surprises.
Like the way they cooked breakfast together, moving around the tiny kitchen like synchronized swimmers, stove to fridge, cabinet to table.
And the way they absorbed other people into their circle of love, like the single mom next door. "Can you take Lizzie's dog for a walk today?" my son-in-law called to his wife. "The kids have dentist appointments."
"Sure," she yelled. "Go to work, you'll be late."
I heard the door bang shut, thinking of all the times I'd run out of the house in a rush, leaving my daughter to finish her breakfast and get herself to school. I'd been a divorced mom most of her childhood; I'd spend countless years worrying that she'd turn out okay, despite my parental failures.
"You know, kid, I kinda like you," I smiled. It was an old joke between us.
She shrugged, putting her plate in the sink and grabbing her coat. "You raised me."
I did, didn't I? I raised this marvelous human thing and launched it into the world.
Hopefully, I'll never turn into a frail, elderly parent who needs my kids' constant help. But it's reassuring to know that if that day ever comes, they'll have my back. And if this is what the future of marriage looks like--the future of family and community--then I can stop worrying (mostly) about the fate of society. The kids are alright.
Of course, right now, I’m no trouble to have around. I’m the perfect house guest, because I’m a vagabond at heart. I don’t push my lifestyle on anyone else — live and let live, I say. Wasn’t I the mom who let my kids play before homework, and eat oatmeal cookies for breakfast?
Sure, I still have urges. I want to scream occasionally about how long they leave the dishes in the sink. I get a little shrill when they overfeed the dog but don’t take him out. The parking situation around here is totally illogical, so they could be a tad more understanding about those tickets I got on their car. And yes — I’m flabbergasted by the sacks of money they spend on takeout, and the time they spend texting each other from different parts of the house. They work long hours and never go on vacation and they lift their eyebrows, ever so slightly, if I have a beer with … um … lunch.
But with three divorces under my belt, I try not to give people relationship advice. Especially people who are doing a fine job of loving each other in spite of 2020: Year of Chaos.
Overall it’s been totally groovy. Just last night they ordered pasta from my favorite Italian restaurant. I thanked them profusely, as I do every day, for their hospitality. I offered to tip the Dasher, but sometimes it takes a few minutes for my middle-aged eyes to find my wallet. (My son-in-law took care of it. Such a nice boy.)
“I love you guys,” I smiled prettily.
“Oh we love you too, Mom!” they said in unison. “Now, when exactly are you leaving?”
Reminded me of what we used to say back in the 60’s …
Never trust anyone over 30.