Chapter 11: Stacy, 1987

Stacy’s happily married now and expecting a child. She and Greg have moved to the section of Arboria Park near the creek, the area that was Evelyn’s dream back when Stacy was a child. But now Evelyn’s upset because Stacy isn’t living in the elegant new neighborhood Olga has moved to with her wealthy second husband.

It’s hardly the only thing Stacy and Evelyn are at odds about. Matt and Jeff are together, also living in Arboria Park. Evelyn blames Stacy, and right when Stacy would most like her mom’s help and guidance, they’re not getting along.

Stacy has found a new friend and mother substitute in neighbor Mona, JC’s aunt, who teaches Stacy how to garden. And she continues wandering the neighborhood and making new friends, so she’s not lonely. But it still stings that she can’t count on her mom.

On a walk one day, Stacy finds herself drawn to passing by the old Ramsey farm. She stops to admire a riot of colorful azaleas, when out marches Edith Ramsey, the “witch” who chased Stacy and her friends away nearly a quarter century before. But this time, Stacy finds yet another mother figure and true friend in Edith, whom she helps with plans to keep her farm from ever being developed.

Stacy’s new friendships help pass the time until her eagerly awaited daughter, Sophie, is born. And she wants Sophie to grow up knowing the area’s history, appreciating the farm, and ready to try anything.

This chapter was based a lot on the real farms around Dover, Delaware, that I wrote about in a previous post. Many of those local farms ended up being developed for housing or commerce, a few still exist as farms, and even fewer are being preserved.

Music doesn’t play a huge role in this chapter, although Stacy is still dropping in on the latest local punk house and presumably trying to expose Sophie in utero to her favorite songs. 1987 ran the gamut from debuts by Whitney Houston and Guns’N’Roses to U2’s The Joshua Tree and The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me. Here are a few songs from the year Stacy might be listening to that reflect her life during months of waiting:

Take a ride down the road that inspired Arboria Park!

The road that inspired Arboria Park recently opened in Dover, Delaware. It’s called the POW/MIA Parkway. This gives me mixed feelings since my late father was a POW during World War II. He’d be happy that he and his fellow POWs were being honored but dismayed at how the project destroyed part of our former neighborhood.

Here’s a video that takes you from Rt. 13 (“the highway” in the book), past the shopping center (in the book, the road project was more elaborate and the shopping center was torn down). You next pass the neighborhood that inspired the book. On that road used to be 13 houses, two of which I was familiar with as a child (one a home of schoolmates and the other of my mother’s best friend). It then passes a farm I used as inspiration for both the Ramsey and Oakley farms. The road terminates at an existing road near the Kraft Foods plant (Fine Foods in the novel). It was General Foods when I grew up, and our air often smelled like chocolate.

It’s odd that after so many years of construction that the road is only one lane in each direction (there currently is a discussion of this on a Facebook page I belong to that is about downstate Delaware–everyone thinks it’s a mistake). It seems like a project designed to relieve congestion and that no doubt will spark more excessive development along its path should be four lanes, at least. My guess is that within a few years, it will need to be expanded and there will be more disruption and destruction along the route.

http://www.doverpost.com/videos/48334DE0-6A15-4323-9CC4-91B1D77E1638/A-quick-trip-down-the-new-POW-MIA-Memorial-Parkway,-formerly-known-as-the-West-Dover-Connector?utm_content=bufferff157&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Chapter 10: Stacy, 1983

It’s a happy though stressful year for Stacy, who is finally fulfilling her childhood dreams of planning a wedding. Though there are still a few holdovers from her days as a nine-year-old spying on her sister (like a tall, tiered wedding cake), she’s adding some updated, personal touches (inviting some punk friends, for instance). And naturally Evelyn is not happy about them.

The rest of the family are excited about their own lives: Tommy has recently married a photographer, and Autumn lands a scholarship to film school. As the family celebrates the latter event at a premiere of her latest movie at the local punk house, it becomes evident that Autumn’s success has triggered her dad Don (who has mostly patched up his life but periodically falls off the wagon). He and Stacy have another one of their knock-down, drag-out arguments/heart-to-heart talks that ends with Don both sorrowful and reflective–and Stacy realizing once again she has to make some changes of her own lest she end up like him.

Stacy and Greg meet one of Autumn’s fans at another house show, a gay journalist named Jeff who uses a wheelchair after a sports accident. On impulse Stacy decides he and her brother Matt might hit it off (and they do). So when Stacy invites him to the the wedding, Evelyn is beside herself. As Stacy’s “dream wedding” unfolds, full of music and dancing and love, Evelyn punctures her joy by accusing her of staging a “spectacle” and humiliating the family. Though hurt, Stacy responds in her own way–fulfilling another dream by having her wedding party “parade through the village” of Arboria Park. Everyone joins in, even her dad and Greg’s family–except Evelyn, who is left alone by choice.

As the festive part of the day ends with a champagne toast, Stacy and Greg end up on the playground gazing at a sunset, their honeymoon and  new life ahead. Like Matt, who is now “out of the closet” despite his mother’s dismay, she chooses to move on ahead rather than dwell on the one blot on her “perfect day.”

Stacy has hired a DJ for her wedding reception to play a wide variety of songs for family and friends to listen and dance to, and they have all made their own requests. Autumn and the punks organize a mosh, and even Don (happily attending with a girlfriend and hanging out with ex-wife Mary and JC) arranges a dance with Stacy to “I Knew the Bride.”

If the DJ wanted to draw from the top songs of 1983, he would have a lot of interesting choices. The MTV era is in full swing, with all kinds of songs and videos hitting the charts. Michael Jackson is at his best with “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” There are one-hit wonders with fun videos, like Men Without Hats, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and After the Fire; ’80s heavy hitters like Duran Duran, the Human League, Culture Club, and the Eurythmics; classic stalwarts like David Bowie, Joe Jackson, Hall & Oates, and the Kinks. Eddy Grant dances down “Electric Avenue”; Don Henley airs some “Dirty Laundry.” Thomas Dolby blinds us with science, and the Police have the number 1 hit of the year with the anthem of the stalkers, “Every Breath You Take.” There’s something for everyone, and with one sad exception, Stacy’s wedding succeeds in providing a universal good time both for her invited guests and the larger neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9: Stacy, 1980

Back to Stacy for 1980, and it’s turning out to be a big year for her. She’s filling in on rhythm guitar for Autumn’s punk band, The Parkers, when she sees a man she recognizes enter the basement show. It’s almost as if he were drawn in by the sound of her guitar (and that Dead Kennedys T-shirt, in honor of the band’s first full album arriving that month). And suddenly ten years disappear and she’s back on the Arboria Park playground stargazing and talking all night with her soulmate. Now all she has to do is get over her fears of “screwing up” a hot-and-heavy relationship and figure out how to get her mom Evelyn to accept the “Puerto Rican airman” she’s bringing home for dinner. And listen to that bootleg tape he’s made of a Black Flag EP.

It’s obvious both Stacy and Autumn have gotten deeper into punk rock, which is still going strong in 1980. Aside from the burgeoning hardcore of Black Flag, there are EPs galore from new bands like The Weirdos, the Minutemen, and the Angry Samoans. X and the political protest punks Dead Kennedys make their debuts. There are albums from punk stalwarts like the Damned and Stiff Little Fingers, and The Clash come up with the triple-disc Sandinista. The mainstream music charts once again are pretty dull, save for some sparks from Blondie, The Pretenders, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. New wave is making waves, though, and Elvis Costello is brimming over with new material. So it’s a reasonably promising time musically a year before MTV comes along, paralleling the promise of Stacy’s new relationship. But the dawn of the 1980s is also confusing and politically dangerous. As Autumn and her friends plan to film a series of horror movies built around the titles of Ramones songs, they recognize the peril surrounding their everyday lives and the need, especially for women, to fight back.  Film director Autumn wants to upend horror film conventions by having her female heroine triumph because “all the guys get killed first.” Though Stacy’s only role in the movie is to “run and scream” as a bystander, she’s doing much more than that in real life, by reclaiming another part of her destiny. And perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Evelyn, on the other hand, is losing control and feeling left out of an increasingly multicultural family and neighborhood. Maybe that feeling leads her, like many Americans, to vote for Ronald Reagan in an attempt to bring back an idealized past, even as  her children and grandchildren embrace the present and future, however scary they may seem.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8: Autumn, 1979

It’s 1979 in Arboria Park, and this time it’s 14-year-old Autumn’s turn to narrate. She’s a latchkey ’70s kid with some problems: Though she likes stepfather JC and new siblings Ruby and Jason, she doesn’t feel she “fits in” with them, or the endless parade of friends and extended family who troop in and out of Mary and JC’s house. And because she’s ostracized at school for reasons “nobody even remembered,” there’s no comfort there. Her last remaining friend is Brenda, with whom she has almost nothing in common anymore, so most of her time is spent drifting: through the lonely halls at school, the half-vacant shopping center, and the streets of Arboria Park.

On a solo Saturday walk she encounters Kip Vanderwende, a 21-year-old who’s the first person she’s ever seen with a mohawk and a vest covered in studs, pins, and band patches. Though “every part of me knew” not to go off with a stranger, Autumn accepts Kip’s invitation to listen to some punk music with him and meet his roommates, Sylvie and Nox. The music is a revelation to Autumn, and Kip and his friends give her a place to finally belong.

Her newfound joy and friendships, however, obscure the fact that Kip has some serious problems and that their “relationship” is probably headed for disaster. It’s a good thing Aunt Stacy (now a social worker) is around for advice. And to Autumn’s surprise she finds a place within her family (as they dance to Santana while cleaning the house), a way to honestly relate to Brenda, some new punk friends her own age, and a couple of goals her family and friends support.

In addition to obvious bands like the Clash (who were crossing into the mainstream) and the Ramones, Kip introduces Autumn to groups like the Avengers (San Francisco), the Germs (Los Angeles), and Sham 69 (England). There were punk scenes all over the world still thriving and expanding, though much of the world’s attention had moved on. Autumn’s excitement over what’s she’s hearing even gives her a new way to connect with JC, whose musical background and knowledge make him a bit more sympathetic to her interests than her Woodstock-mired mom. And she begins to understand how Mary’s desire not to repeat her own mother’s mistakes may have led her to misinterpret Autumn’s needs and problems.

Here’s a playlist that Autumn’s family may have listened to during their family cleaning day:

Soul Sacrifice      Santana

Low Rider           War

See                         The Rascals

Birdland               Weather Report

School Days         Stanley Clarke

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day       Chicago

Them Changes       Buddy Miles

 

And here are some of the songs Kip played for Autumn:

 

 

 

Chapter 7: Stacy, 1974

It’s 1974, and Mary is getting married again (happily) to a fellow teacher. Evelyn and Don are upset about the marriage: Evelyn has issues because Mary’s fiancé is black; Don has, well, just issues. (Some of them originating in a bottle.) Matt and Stacy have secrets: Stacy’s aware of Matt’s since it’s hiding in plain sight, but nobody knows why Stacy is so depressed following her freshman year at college.

The worst part for Stacy is that her usual haven and salvation, music, is not working. In fact, she’s refusing the play her guitar or listen to much of anything.  So when Tommy shows up for the wedding with a gift for her (tapes of the underground New York rock scene), she’s not sure she wants to hear them.

If you look at the Top 100 Billboard songs of 1974, it’s not surprising that Stacy doesn’t find much comfort there. The charts were dominated by novelty songs (“The Streak,” Ray Stevens; “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods; “Wildwood Weed,” Jim Stafford; “The  Night Chicago Died,” Paper Lace); overwrought pop (“Seasons in the Sun,” Terry Jacks; “You’re Having My Baby,” Paul Anka; “I Honestly Love You,” Olivia Newton-John);  and cheesy covers (“You’re Sixteen,” Ringo Starr; “The Loco-Motion,” Grand Funk Railroad). Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Not much rock’n’roll, although a couple of classics made their debuts in 1974: “Radar Love” by Golden Earring and “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Station.  Stevie Wonder was in the middle of a very productive phase and charted with the wonderful “Living for the City,” and Chaka Khan told us something good. California folk-rock stars like Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, and Jackson Browne, were becoming popular. (Stacy alludes to making a “detour” into this type of music that didn’t go well.) Bowie was in his Diamond Dogs phase, and some of the glitter from glam rock was still lying around on the floor. Stacy does find herself somewhat interested in the vast musical knowledge of her brother-in-law-to-be, JC, who introduces her to Gil Scott-Heron and Stanley Clark. She knows there’s a lot more words and music out there but doesn’t trust herself to know how to find and appreciate it anymore than she trusts herself to function beyond the confines of Arboria Park without making another terrible mistake.

But Tommy has struck gold in the dives and dumps of Manhattan, with glam of the New York Dolls edging toward the punk of the Dictators. He’s also recorded poets like Patti Smith and Jim Carroll, recognized the talent of a pre-Blondie Debbie Harry, and caught the beginnings of bands like Television. This music draws Stacy’s attention and brings her to a place she hasn’t been able to find for a while (except when secretly popping pills). And after an argument (and a subsequent heart-to-heart conversation) with none other than Don, she gets back on track to resurrect a rock’n’roll dream.

The nation as a whole was dealing with secrets, lies, sneaking around, and untrustworthy people. It was the height of the Watergate scandals; President Nixon would resign just a few weeks after Mary’s wedding. The world was divided into people like Evelyn, who resists any kind of change; Tommy, who charges ahead to find anything new and different; Don, who wants to move on but can’t; and Matt, who just wants to be himself without being judged. The ’60s are over, the ’70s are looking both manic and grim. Stacy needs a shot of courage, and just knowing there are people writing and singing about the problems she sees around her provides one.

 

Summer of ’69

Laurie, 1969

The moon landing and Woodstock make for an unforgettable summer for Laurie Willis and her friends and family.

  1. Moon over Arboria

I’m lying on the base of our old slide reading America Conquers Space, which I got at the school book fair in the spring. In just a couple of days, men will be walking on the moon! I figure it’s important to know as much as I can about it.

The slide is the most comfortable place to read outside. I’m trying to ignore my little brother, Teddy, and his friend Ricky Nimowicz who are playing army on the other side of the yard. They have two tents set up, a cheap plastic one from the dime store and a bigger one my dad bought for camping. Flags left over from our Fourth of July barbecue are set up around them, along with a “Fort Maple” sign.

The boys quiet down for a second, but I can hear them rustling around the larger tent. Then Ricky yells, “Reveille!” and Teddy bursts out, trying to play it on his trumpet. Horribly.

Mom opens the back door and leans out. “Theodore! You are NOT to bring that trumpet outside. We’re just renting it, and if you get dirt in it before school even starts…”

Teddy sighs and brings the trumpet over to Mom.

Mom shuts the door and Ricky goes, “THEODORE! ALVIN!”

“Shut up!” Teddy yells, then chases Ricky around, “firing” his toy rifle.

I look over to the Andersons’ driveway next door. The car is back, so Jane and Ellen must be home from their dentist appointment. I take my book inside and leave it on the dishwasher so Mom can see I’m being responsible.

I knock on the Andersons’ back door and someone yells, “Come on in, Laurie!” because they know it has to be me. Jane’s and Ellen’s older sister, Connie, is sitting at the sewing machine in the dining room, cutting out a skirt pattern on some bright, flowery fabric. Mrs. Anderson is leaning over helping her. “Now remember to leave a couple of extra inches. You’re not going to wear it as short as the one in the picture!” She looks up at me. “Jane’s in her room.”

As I walk down the hallway, Jane comes out of the bathroom. “Didja have any cavities?” I ask her. She shrugs. “One. I have to go back.”

“I didn’t have any!” Ellen yells from their shared room. Ellen’s a year older than me, going into eighth grade, and Jane’s a year younger. We three have played together for years; Barbie dolls (though not so much anymore) and kickball and Swing the Statue. Lately, though, Ellen has started thinking she’s Miss It. She bosses us around and sometimes goes off to try to hang around some older girls down the street. The good part about her acting like a teen queen, though, is her parents gave her a record player, and she also buys magazines like Tiger Beat with Bobby Sherman’s picture in them and stuff. We used to have to raid Connie’s room for magazines like that but now Connie reads things that don’t have as many Bobby Sherman stories.

“Wanna go outside?” Jane asks.

“Only if it’s out front. Teddy and Ricky are making too much noise. Or we could go watch TV at my house.”

Jane nods and we head out. Ellen must not have anything better to do because she tags along.

Mrs. Anderson looks up. “Laurie, tell your mom I’ve come up with something new for the moon party. It’s…”

“Green cheese dip!” Connie yells.

“Cream cheese with green onions and some food dye. And Fred needs to know if one bushel of clams is enough, or two?”

“I’ll ask her,” I say. “She found a recipe for something called Lunar Punch, and she’s going to get out her punch bowl.”

Our parents are holding a big neighborhood party to celebrate the moon landing. The Andersons and us don’t have fences, so it’s like one big yard, and in the summer we’re always having something: a Fourth of July cookout, or Mr. Anderson’s annual birthday bash where the adults all drink too much and act goofy. Or my dad picks up a couple of farm-stand watermelons and we kids (and sometimes the adults) spit seeds at each other. Sometimes it’s just our two families, or maybe the Nimowiczes too, but other times it’s practically the whole block. Mr. Anderson will get clams and steam them on his barbecue grill, or we’ll buy a whole car trunk full of corn on the cob and eat it with potato chips for dinner. This moon party, though, is going to be really huge. Like Mr. Anderson’s birthday and Fourth of July all rolled into one.

***

The day of the party, there are four barbecue grills set up in our backyard. Mr. Hayes has wheeled his across the street, and Mr. Nimowicz brings a Hibachi. Our moms are setting out bags of hot dog and hamburger rolls and bowls of chips and pretzels and stuff. We’re not supposed to eat anything until everybody’s officially here but Teddy and Ricky are snatching pretzels when they think no one’s looking and eyeing the big box of cupcakes Ricky’s mom brought. My mom takes the cupcakes in the house so they won’t get flies on them.

Lots of people show up, bringing potato salad and Jello molds and desserts. We actually run out of plastic cups and Mrs. Hayes goes to get more. All the kids start making the empty clamshells into spaceships.

There’s also lots of beer, and people keep bringing more. I can tell Mom’s had a few because she’s totally ignoring us scarfing up all of Mrs. Rosen’s brownies and drinking more sodas and sugary Lunar Punch than we’re supposed to have. Our dog, Ringo, tips over a can of Budweiser and laps it up off the ground. Mr. Hayes thinks that’s funny and gives him some more until Mom finally notices and says, “Put the dog inside for now.”

Ellen’s abandoned our spaceship-making and is hanging around with Dean Sullivan, who lives over on Elm Street. He came with his parents and was rolling his eyes and Ellen was rolling hers and I guess they decided to roll them together. Jane and I make kissy faces at Ellen and she turns her back on us.

As it gets dark, Mr. Anderson sets up Ellen’s record player on the back step, with an extension cord going into the kitchen. He grabs a bunch of records from next to the hi-fi in the living room and plays songs with “moon” in them. The Andersons have a big record collection, and they like to dance. Pretty soon most of the grown-ups are up dancing to Elvis Presley singing “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Ellen is holding hands with Dean. She thinks we can’t see because it’s dark.

“I bet she wants him to dance with her,” Jane says.

Somehow Ringo’s gotten outside again and Teddy and Ricky are chasing him. Dad takes him in and checks the TV while he’s there. “Hey, they’re on the moon NOW!”

Everyone cheers. Dad hugs Mom, and Mr. Nimowicz goes to the back of the yard and shoots off one firecracker he had left over from the Fourth.

I keep looking up at the sky as Mr. Anderson plays “Fly Me to the Moon.” Mr. Taylor hollers, “Hey, how many moon songs did Sinatra sing anyway?” “Old Devil Moon,” Mrs. Anderson says.  “Only a Paper Moon,” Mom adds.

Dad comes over to me. “Pretty strange thing, isn’t it? Knowing there are men walking up there, above us.”

I squint at the moon, even though I know you can’t ACTUALLY see anything. “Maybe they’ll send more people now, like tourists. I’d like to go.”

Dad laughs. “It’ll just be astronauts for a while, honey. And they’re usually fighter pilots, or something. Not girls.”

“Girls can’t be fighter pilots?” I ask. “Anyway, they’ll need scientists. Why can’t girls do that?”

Dad’s fumbling for his cigarettes now. “Well, I know you like science. Maybe there’s some way girls can help, but I don’t think they’ll be sending any up.”

“They should if people start living there doing experiments,” I insist.

Dad laughs. “Well, they just might at that.”

Mr. Anderson puts on “Moonlight Serenade.” The adults start slow dancing, even my parents. Mostly they’ve all been jitterbugging and Lindy-hopping, and Mr. Anderson even dipped Mrs. Anderson during “How High the Moon.” Now everybody’s hanging all over each other. It’s weird to see parents acting like that.

Mr. Hayes isn’t dancing. He’s getting another beer and laughing at some joke Mr. Taylor is trying to tell. Mrs. Hayes is dancing with one of the bachelor airmen who live down on the corner. The one Connie says is a dreamboat, who takes out one of the older Vanderwende girls sometimes, but now he’s got his arms around Mrs. Hayes, really tight, and she’s smiling and whispering in his ear.

I think Mr. Hayes cheats on his wife. I’ve heard my parents say some things, when they think we’re not listening, about how he seems awfully friendly with his secretary or how handsy he was with a bleach-blonde lady at the Elks dance.

All of a sudden Mr. Hayes is over pulling his wife away and trying to punch the airman. I think he’s had too much beer though because he misses on two swings and by then Mr. Rosen and Dad have grabbed him.

The airman says a quick goodbye and hits the pike. Mom and some other ladies surround Mrs. Hayes and walk out front with her, and the men do the same for Mr. Hayes. Jane and I start to follow but her mom pulls us back and says leave it alone or we’ll have to go inside.

“Moonlight Serenade” gives way to “Pennsylvania Six Five Thousand” and “In the Mood” before everything’s calmed back down. The Taylors leave but Mr. Anderson isn’t ready to kill this party yet. “Hey, it’s only eleven,” he says to everyone. “The night is young.”

Connie gets home from a movie date with Larry Albright, wearing her new flowered skirt. Her dad asks her to play “Moon River” to get people dancing again but while it’s playing she runs inside and grabs “Bad Moon Rising” and puts it on next. Watching our parents trying to dance to that is even funnier than watching them be swoony. And Ellen and Dean are dancing. Jane punches me in the ribs to be sure I see them. Ellen dances behind Dean to stick her tongue out at us.

After that Connie plays “Age of Aquarius” and then her dad takes over again. He doesn’t care for Connie’s choice to end the evening, “Moonlight Drive,” and since he’s run out of moon songs, he goes with Bing Crosby singing “Swing on a Star.”

People finally drift off and a few make a half-hearted attempts to help clean up. Mom says, “Oh, hell, leave it for tomorrow,” and now I know for sure she’s tipsy.

***

Dad’s on afternoon shift this week, so he gets up late and spends the day reading the newspaper until Mom tells him to put the barbecue grill and the lawn chairs away so the yard doesn’t look like Bourbon Street.

Mr. and Mrs. Hayes take a very sudden trip away on Tuesday. They give Mrs. Taylor their house key so she can feed the fish while they go on their “second honeymoon.” “Second honeymoon, my eye,” I hear Mom say to Dad in the kitchen after she talks to Mrs. Taylor. “It’ll take more than a trip to the beach to fix up that marriage,” and then she hears me giggling because all I can think of is Mr. Hayes holding a hammer and Mrs. Hayes a paint roller like when my parents “fixed up” the basement. Mom yells, “I thought you kids were watching TV!” like we never came in the kitchen for a drink or something.

Now Ellen’s lording it over us that she’s “going out” with Dean Sullivan. Well, not really, because her parents won’t let her, but they talk on the phone and sometimes he comes over and stands around in the front yard looking embarrassed while Jane and I keep walking by them accidentally-on-purpose and Teddy sings, “Ellen and Dean, sittin’ in a tree.”

On Friday I get some more books about space from the Bookmobile. Teddy and Ricky change their sign to “Cape Maple” and pretend the big tent is a rocket ship and the little one is a lunar module. One of the books is about the people in the NASA control room and the ones who design the rockets and stuff like that. I need to find out more.

2. By the Time We Got to Maplestock

After Mr. and Mrs. Hayes get back they announce they’re selling their house and moving to Meadow Gate, a new subdivision out by the Fine Foods plant. “No airmen can afford to live there,” Mr. Hayes brags to my parents while they’re fertilizing the lawn one day. After he leaves Dad says, “Wonder how long until he starts punching his ticket out there,” and from where we’re standing behind them on the porch Teddy has to blurt out, “What ticket?” Dad says, “Jesus, you kids,” and Mom tells us to go out back until dinner.

But the big drama is over at the Andersons’. And for once it’s not Ellen who’s sulking, screaming, and slamming doors. It’s Connie, the good girl who always gets top grades and is home by curfew and doesn’t sass. She’s so responsible that she’s been our babysitter the last few years. I don’t think we need a babysitter anymore, but that’s another story. Anyway, Jane and Ellen told me it’s because of Woodstock.

See, Connie’s best friend is Tracy Rosen, and Tracy’s brother, Scott, goes to college. He’s friends with Larry Albright, the boy who took Connie to the movies. Scott and Larry are going up to New York State in a few weeks to camp at this music festival called Woodstock. They invited Tracy and Connie to come along, but the Andersons won’t let her go. Even though Connie explained, “The girls and boys will each have their own tent!” her parents still said no, and Connie had slammed her bedroom door so hard a picture fell off the wall in the living room, Jane told me.

I see Connie out in the backyard one afternoon, lying in a lawn chair in her bathing suit with her back to the house, playing her transistor radio. I go over and ask her about this Woodstock thing.

She sighs and rubs more Coppertone on her legs. “It’s three days long, outdoors. Bands play music all day and into the night, and then people camp till the next day when they start again. All the top groups will be there.”

“Even the Beatles?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, not so many British bands, except for the Who. Most of them are American, like Creedence. But they’re adding more all the time, so who knows? Imagine seeing so many groups all at once. It’s a once in a lifetime thing, and my parents just don’t understand.”

I see an actual tear trickle out from under her Foster Grants. “I’m so sick of everything. This house, my summer job, my parents, Arboria Park. . . I just want to have an adventure before school starts again. Something to remember.”

I’m still thinking about what she said later when Jane and Ellen are over on my front porch eating Freeze Pops and looking at the latest Tiger Beat. “I feel bad for Connie,” I tell them.

“Me too,” Ellen agrees. “Our parents are so unfair. I can only talk to Dean for ten minutes on the phone. Like, that’s so stupid. They never let us do anything.”

“They’re letting us go on the bus trip to Dorney Park,” Jane says.

“Because it’s a church trip,” Ellen sneers. “Just wait until you have a boyfriend, or want to go somewhere cool. You’ll see.”

It’s Ellen being all Miss Teenage It with us again. I’m ready to tell her to go stand in traffic when Jane says, “I still think our parents are nice. They gave us money to buy records at Nichols last night. I got the Archies and Ellen got ‘Crimson and Clover.’” She jumps up. “Come on, Ellen. Let’s go play them for Laurie.”

And that moment I get the idea. “You know what? We should put on a music festival for Connie. Learn to play and sing some songs. We have some instruments. Ricky Nimowicz plays drums. I have a guitar.”

“It’s a toy guitar.” Ellen just can’t stop being Ellen. “It’s made of plastic.”

“Well, yeah. But it has real strings. And Ricky’s drum kit is for real. And Jane plays the recorder, and Teddy plays trumpet . . . It’ll be kind of weird, but I get we could learn to play something. Maybe some songs by the bands at Woodstock.”

It takes a few minutes but I convince them. We go find the boys and pitch the idea. We agree we’ll have to practice at my house so Connie won’t find out.

***

Ricky sets up his drums in our basement, and we set about learning to play. We’re not sure what bands will actually be at Woodstock but have decided to learn “Proud Mary” first because Connie likes Creedence. We have our old record player that my folks put downstairs when they bought the stereo, and we try playing along with the record at first. Ricky is the only one who can actually play. After a couple of days, there’s no way we can pretend we’re any good at all.

Ellen flakes off first, then Teddy. Jane and I sit on the back stoop, feeling glum. Woodstock’s in less than two weeks. And even though Tracy’s parents have said she can’t go either (though they’re still letting Scott go), Connie’s still barely speaking to anybody and is either closed up in her room or over at Tracy’s house whenever she’s not at her summer job at the dime store. Between that and Ellen moping about not seeing enough of Dean, Jane’s house is pretty depressing so we’re usually over at mine.

Ellen comes out in the backyard, playing Connie’s radio that she’s “borrowed” while Connie’s at work. She’s dancing around being all moony to Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy.” Then Jackie DeShannon starts singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and Ellen is pretending to sing it, holding the radio like a microphone and emoting at our mimosa tree like it’s her audience. She doesn’t see us watching because the big pyracantha bush is in the way.

Jane stands up and is about to go bust Ellen when I get another flash. “That’s it! We’ll never learn to play one song in time, let alone a bunch. Let’s lip-synch and pretend to play! It’ll be easier. We can make costumes and try to look like the bands!”

We dash over and interrupt Ellen and tell her the idea. To my surprise, she kind of likes it. We round up the boys and go back in the basement, but this time we know what we’re doing.

Over the next few days, Ellen prods Connie to list some of the actual bands playing at Woodstock, and we go through her records so we can pick out songs. We figure six songs will do, and enlist Mom and Mrs. Anderson to help us.

But then things slide again. We’ve agreed to rehearse at one o’clock one day, but we can’t find Teddy and Ricky anywhere, and Ellen’s not back from the shopping center. Her mom gave her the okay to walk up there with Dean.

I’m ready to give up again when the boys finally come trotting up. They’ve been over on Elm Street, they explain, watching Audrey Vanderwende make out with a guy in a sports car.

“There’s like six of us around the car, and they don’t even stop kissing!” Teddy says breathlessly, throwing himself on the front step. “We banged on the windows and they ignored us. He had his hand up her shirt!”

“I even did this on the windshield.” Ricky puckers his lips and mashes his face on the window of my mom’s car, leaving a disgusting imprint.

“Never mind. We still have time. We’ll start without Ellen.”

Jane points. “Here she comes.”

Ellen and Dean are walking up Maple Street, real slow like they want to drag out their time together. I yell, “Hey, Ellen!” and she walks even slower, looking away.

We run over to them. “Hey, Ellen, it’s time to rehearse,” I say, and she turns red. “We agreed we’d start at one.”

“Rehearse for what?” Dean asks, and Ellen gets even redder.

“We’re putting on our own version of Woodstock, since Connie can’t go,” I explain. Ellen’s eyes are just slits now, but Dean’s brighten up.

“Cool,” he says, and I launch into a description of our efforts. When Ellen sees Dean’s reaction, she jumps in and tries to pretend it’s all her idea.

“Can I be in it?” Dean asks.

“Of course!” Ellen purrs and bats her eyes at him, but he’s looking at me.

“It’d be great,” I say. “We need another person, really. We don’t have enough instruments, or the right kind of guitar, but maybe we could make some fake ones.”

“Now Laurie won’t have to play a guy in every band,” Ellen says to Dean. “Just because she looks like one.” I swear I’m going to kill her later.

But Dean doesn’t acknowledge her. “Can you guys wait a few minutes? I think I got something that will help.” He takes off down the street, a lot faster than he walked up it.

He’s gone for twenty minutes and Ellen goes from over the moon to spitting fire. “If he doesn’t come back, Laurie Willis, it’s your fault. He probably thinks we’re all weirdos.”

“Maybe he thinks you’re a snot for calling me a guy,” I answer, and we’re getting into it when Jane yells that Dean is coming back.

He’s holding an electric guitar. It’s pretty banged-up-looking, but it’s a real one. “My uncle left some stuff in our basement when he shipped out,” Dean explains. “It won’t play for real, but if we’re just faking anyway…”

Two strings are missing, and the back is peeling away from the front. But he’s right, it’ll look realistic.

Now we’re back in business. We raid Connie’s room for more records and Mrs. Anderson’s “Halloween chest” for costumes. Our families agree to provide food, and we make up a list of people to invite. One afternoon we form an assembly line to make fliers: Ellen and Dean letter “MAPLESTOCK! TWO HOURS OF MUSIC FOOD PEACE & LOVE! 111 and 113 Maple Street. 1:30 PM August 16, 1969.” Then Jane and the boys draw flowers and peace signs on each one, and I add “Don’t tell Connie Anderson It’s a surprise!!!!” on the bottom. We distribute them to the neighbors and to some of Connie’s friends, swearing them to secrecy.

***

Connie has to work until two on Woodstock day. We start setting up as soon as she leaves the house at ten. Our dads have a surprise for us: an actual stage, made from two-by-fours and a big piece of plywood left over from our basement renovation. They set it up under the Andersons’ swing set. We take down the swings and hang up an old sheet where we’ve painted “MAPLESTOCK 1969” and more flowers and peace signs. Instead of Ellen’s tinny-sounding record player, we have a sound system: Mr. Anderson has moved the hi-fi outdoors and he’ll change the records for us. Ellen drills him about the order while I help our moms set up tables for food and coolers full of ice and sodas. Our costumes are piled on the Andersons’ dining room table for quick changes. The boys set up the instruments, including a fake keyboard we made from a cardboard box and one of my mom’s tray tables.

We told the guests to come at 1:30 so they’ll all be in place when Connie gets home. The yard fills up with the usual party attendees, kids we know, some of Connie’s friends like Becky Baxter and Matt Halloran and his younger sister Stacy, and a bunch of the Vanderwendes.

Tracy Rosen pulls up the driveway, dropping Connie off. We have a sign up on the front step telling them both to come to the back yard.

It’s like a surprise party. Some people even yell, “Surprise!” and Connie is led to a lawn chair set up just for her in front of the stage.

Our first “act” is Ellen doing Joan Baez. We don’t know what songs the bands will actually play at Woodstock, so we just picked ones from Connie’s records that we liked and thought we could fake good. Ellen is wearing bell-bottom jeans, a shirt with a peace sign, and a dark wig. She pretends to play my guitar and sing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” I have to admit Ellen really is the best fake singer of all of us.

The real applause drowns out the clapping from the live album version of the song. Ellen dashes inside to change for her next song. Since Ricky’s our best fake musician, he’s staying behind the drums for everything from this point on. Ellen has passed me her Baez wig, and me and Teddy fake-strum the guitars. We’re Creedence Clearwater Revival, wearing Mr. Anderson’s flannel hunting shirts. Dean is being John Fogerty, in an old Beatle wig. We do “Bad Moon Rising,” and at the very end Teddy and Ricky yell “there’s a bathroom on the right!” even though we told them not to. But the crowd loves it, so I let it go.

Our next band is Jefferson Airplane. We ditch the shirts and put on a lot of scarves and beads and try to look like San Francisco hippies. I’m supposed to be Paul Kantner, so I have on a long blonde wig and the sunglasses I snitched from Connie’s room. Dean leaves the Beatle wig on to be Marty Balin, and Ellen has changed into one of Connie’s miniskirts and some high heels to be Grace Slick. They pretend to sing “Volunteers” at each other. It goes over well.

We leave on the hippie gear for Big Brother and the Holding Company. I muss up the wig and wrap a bandana around it and add a feather. And put on a bunch of my mom’s old jewelry, because in all the magazine pictures Janis Joplin’s always wearing lots of rings and bracelets. It’s fun being out front performing “Down on Me.”  I dance around like Ellen.

Now we have to be Sly and the Family Stone. We fought over this one because Teddy wants to play his trumpet, even though the trumpet player in the real band is a girl. But we decided that since some of the real band are black people anyway and we’re not, it wouldn’t hurt. I wish the Andrews boys were old enough to be in the band but they’re too little. They’re dancing on our picnic table bench, though. Ellen is at the keyboard and me and Jane are the backup singers. We all get into “I Want to Take You Higher,” and actually yell “Boom shaka laka” over the record. Dean has borrowed a harmonica for the solo, and Teddy prances around the stage with his trumpet.

Connie and all her friends are dancing now. The applause is so enthusiastic that Ellen yells to her dad to play “Everyday People,” and we fake it even though we haven’t rehearsed it. We invite the Andrews boys up to dance onstage and Kyle, the seven-year-old, starts belting out the song so Dean gives way to him. He’s amazing. Me and Jane do these little dance steps during our part.

Dean puts on the long brown wig and sunglasses for Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country.” This is Jane’s big number, because she’s faking the flute solo on the recorder. People are still dancing.

Our big finale is Blood Sweat & Tears singing “Spinning Wheel,” and Teddy surprises us by playing his trumpet for real at the end. Jane pretends to be the rest of the horns.

We take a bow and some people even yell, “Encore!” So we play Joe Cocker doing “A Little Help From My Friends,” because Connie requests it. Ellen’s being Leon Russell in the blonde wig and sunglasses. So who’s a guy now?

Connie hugs all of us. Our moms give out cupcakes and Mr. Anderson complains that his hi-fi is probably wrecked forever, but we don’t think he means it. Some of the neighbors leave around four but Connie asks if she and her friends can have a little record party indoors. And to our surprise she asks us to join them, even Teddy and Ricky.

3. Aftermath

School will be starting next week, after a big Labor Day cookout in our yard. It’s been a fun summer. Connie’s friends wave or honk now when they see us. It’s like we’re not little kids to them anymore. I think it bothers Ellen a little that we’re lumped in with her now, though.

Teddy’s learning to play the Woodstock songs for real. He practices all the time to the records, and he’s getting pretty good. Dad says, “Jesus, do we have to listen to that racket again,” and Mom reminds him that they’ve been wanting him to practice more.

Scott and Larry didn’t even get to Woodstock. They got stuck on the New York Thruway for three hours and heard on the radio that nobody could even get near the festival, so they turned around and went to the Jersey shore instead. Connie told her parents, “See, maybe I could have gone after all,” and Mr. Anderson said she had another thing coming if she thought camping with boys at the beach was an option.

Ellen’s parents let her go with Dean to the teen pool party out at the air base last week. Me and Jane didn’t care because we went to this thing at the bowling alley for kids ages eleven to fourteen. The shoe rentals and the snack bar were half price, and they played Top 40 music. We bowled against Stacy Halloran and her friend Julie; they beat us but they were nice about it and said we were good. They left because they got a ride to the Dairy Queen, so we played two boys from Jane’s class, Kip and Marty, and we beat them. The bowling alley had all these Christmas lights strung up, and sometimes they’d lower the other lights so colors flashed on you while you bowled. It was cool.

Ellen didn’t have such a good time. In fact, her and Dean broke up. Dean ditched her at the party and spent the whole evening pulling on Cheryl Ottolini’s bathing-suit strap and trying to dunk her, then bought her a soda at the vending machine to apologize. He didn’t buy one for Ellen or even talk to her. When Mr. Anderson came to pick them up she told him Dean had another ride home and left him there. She even told Jane she wished she’d gone bowling with us. She also told Jane not to tell me that part but then she said she was going to the bathroom while they were doing the dishes and didn’t come back so Jane got revenge by telling me. Ellen said Dean acted like that because Cheryl has big bazonkas. It’s too bad because now we have to ignore Dean when we see him, and if we do another show he can’t be in it. You think you know a person and then they act like that.

I hope junior high won’t be all about bazonkas and boys pulling your straps. It’ll be weird not being in the same school with Jane, just like it was when Ellen wasn’t at our school anymore. I mean, we both know other people to hang out with, but it’s still weird. I don’t know if I can count on Ellen. She even said we should have let the boys beat us in bowling and that I won’t be popular in junior high if I don’t learn things like that. Like I’m going to pretend to lose to a couple of sixth-grade booger-eaters like Marty Siegel and Kip Vanderwende. But I would still try to win even if I were bowling against Bobby Sherman and Mark Lindsay, so I guess I won’t be popular. They don’t have recess in junior high, only something called “intramurals,” where the boys play basketball and stuff in the gym and the girls watch. I think that’s lame. Maybe I’ll use the time to read. The junior high library should have some more space books.

I’ve kind of figured out what I want to do. See, they’ll be doing more science experiments in space. They’ll need to remember to bring the right equipment and stuff, and somebody will have to organize it all and keep track and make sure they don’t forget anything. There’s no reason girls can’t do that. I think we’re better than boys at things like that. The part I liked best about Maplestock, now that I think about it, was the organizing part. Getting everything together and planning and telling people what to do. If I can’t join NASA, maybe I could organize music festivals. Connie says there will be more, maybe even another Woodstock. They’ll need someone to plan things better so people don’t get caught in traffic or stuck in the mud, and have more food and stop people from bringing drugs. I’m not sure what that kind of person is called, but I think I could do it.

I’ll have a chance to practice my organizing skills soon. Mom starts a new part-time job next week at ILC, the place where they actually make the spacesuits! I can’t wait until we do the family tour in October. So two days a week we’ll be on our own when we get home from school, until she comes back after five. We have to check in with Mrs. Anderson and stay inside doing our homework, and maybe peel potatoes or something to start dinner. Mrs. Anderson just got a job answering phones at the newspaper office, but it’s only in the mornings. Our dads are worried that if President Nixon ends the war, there won’t be as many planes to fix at the base and they could have their hours cut back. I mean, it’s not like they’re for the war because everyone at the base is sad when a guy from there gets killed. I asked Dad if he could get a job at NASA fixing rockets instead. He said, “We’d have to move to Florida. Do you want to do that?” and I answered truthfully, “I would if Jane and her family went too.”

Jane wants to be an airline stewardess and said maybe if people go live on the moon they’ll have regular flights like a plane and we could be space stewardesses together. I don’t think so, though. I’d rather be the one organizing the flights.