For reasons unknown to me for many years I had always considered my grandmother, and my mother in turn, a witch. I should immediately qualify that by stating that I in no way mean the modern, inherently negative meaning of the word, in fact, it is quite the contrary. By witch I mean the woman who is made other by her weirdness, again in the pre-modern sense of the word, by her isolation from immediate social surrounds, and by her hard-won wisdom.

I’m sure I’ve stated before that the concept I most associate with Ngaire is ‘alone’, because while surrounded by her family it was on rare occasions that I saw her immersed in the simple act of being with other people. Always a little haughty and distant, she was always the square peg. And yet, looking back, she possessed, in my experience at least, the ability to make statements that could cut to the quick – but not out of spite, instead because they saw through the layering and social buffers with which small-town people (and perhaps New Zealanders in general) protect themselves.

And though, like her mother, she has never really known best how to wield the power, I see my own mother inheriting the mantle. Much of my childhood I remember my mother being alone in one way or another, and I remember that we were in many ways very odd within the social environ we found ourselves. While for the better part of my youth I wrote this difference off to her baby-boomer hippy past, yet in retrospect the hippy ethos was for many little more than a self-adhered veneer to allow one to slake off the negative aspects of sterile, ‘modern’ mid-C20th life.

It is that weirdness, the difference from the mainstream that I’ve come to regard as the true marker of the hippy of the baby-boomer generation. Those unpossessing of that otherness are, in my humble opinion, those most likely to have been on the hippie bandwagon, not genuinely interested in the revolution, but only in riding out its benefits.

I also emphasise the weirdness because it is that which defined the outcome for so many boomers. When the dust had started to settle, and the revolution had degraded into disco and velcro, the good-timers exited for the ‘next big thing’, while the true hippies retreated to the metaphorical hills.

That is, those who survived. Because no revolution is without a cost, and those who rebelled against the straight-jacket of conformity and authority New Zealand and the West represented paid many a price in poverty, in addiction, in mental illness, in family break-ups and in dependency, a wealth of costs they may or may not have seen coming. And so it was that my mother came through the revolution in isolation, the one inheritance from her mother she may not have desired or anticipated coming to the fore, and defining the remainder of her life.

F,FLP

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