Alyce Miller’s Story “My Summer of Love” was published in NER 14.3 (1992).
I was the son and only child of two flower children named Reed and Marie Braxton who met at Berkeley and were married by a clown named Lenny Penny, who joined them “for as long as it feels good.” My parents were staunch socialists and believed in sharing everything, including each other. My arrival was in strict contradiction to my father’s philosophy about the over-population of the world. When I remained small for my age, my father blamed my mother, a resolute vegetarian, for refusing me meat.
Since my parents believed in openness about everything, I grew up with few secrets in a community of their friends near the Haight, knowing a little about a lot: mari-juana, orgone boxes, meditation, birth control, and the relative uncertainty of adult relationships which permutated like kaleidoscopes. My mother worked part-time as a receptionist at an art gallery on Haight Street and volunteered at the free clinic. My father had earned a teaching credential in college and occasionally taught at an alter- native private high school where students didn’t receive grades.
The day my parents took me to the train station my mother was wearing a red flowered skirt and a white blouse, set off the shoulders, and sandals. She and my father passed their morning joint back and forth as we drove down through the Panhandle. They had fought miserably the night before, something about the couple, Dana and Lightning from Los Angeles, who had been “crashing”with us since Easter. My father spent the whole night sitting outside on the front steps “getting his head together.” Now my parents huddled in the front seat like two bad children, eyeing each other, as the acrid smell of marijuana enveloped us all in a forgiving haze.
At the station, my mother put on pink-rimmed granny glasses to hide her puffy eyes. She assured me over and over that my going to Aunt Evie was the best for now while she and my father worked through their “philosophical crisis.””You know how much I adore Evie,” she said several times as if to reassure herself. “I wouldn’t trust anyone else with you.” She asked me not to discuss their troubles with either Aunt Evie or Uncle Ned. “Especially Uncle Ned.” Then from her shoulder bag she pulled out my collapsible travel chess set and pressed it into my hands.
“You forgot this. Don’t forget me,” she whispered, her hot tears staining my cheek. I gratefully stuffed the chess set into my knapsack, along with three chess books and my wooden chess clock.