In late May 1967, the four friends whom I’d met at the Loretto Guild suggested that we find a house to rent. One of them worked at the University of Dayton and knew that during the summer months the University rented the houses in which students had lived during the school months. At the end of May we moved into the house pictured in last Thursday’s posting. We stayed there for three months. During that time I dated a little. By the end of the summer that had ended.
In August one friend began to study the classified ads in the Dayton Daily News. She found a three-bedroom apartment at a “swingin’ singles” complex that boasted a swimming pool with a concrete surround furnished with deck chairs, tables with umbrellas, and hootenanny music.
For that swingin’ singles’ pool I bought a two-piece swimsuit. It consisted of a top that was like the modern-day sports bras and a pair of shorts that came four or five inches down my thighs. The suit was modest, its pattern a smattering of tiny pink, blue, and yellow flowers with green leaves on a white background. It suited someone like myself who was still uncomfortable with having much flesh on display. The memory of seven yards of black serge lingered and my body missed the anonymity of the habit it had worn.
Many days in September and October, after taking the electric trolley bus home from work, I’d don that swimming suit. Opening the door to the pool area, which a tall wooden fence enclosed on three sides, I’d first dip my toes to test the water's coldness then sit on the edge of the pool, making circles in the sun drenched water. Next, I’d enter the shallow end and sit in the water. But I didn’t know how to swim, so after a few minutes, I’d emerge from the pool and settle into a lounge chair, positioned in the shadows beneath the overhanging railed balconies of the second floor.
There I’d read while humming the songs the local DJs were playing on the radios. When not engrossed in a novel, I’d raise my head and watch the bronzed men and nubile young women flirting with one another in the pool and dancing on the concrete area surrounding it.
The local radio stations played records by many folk artists, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Glenn Yarborough, and Simon and Garfunkel among them. It was a time rich in music.
One of those songs—written by Seeger in the 1950s and sung by Joan Baez in the mid-'60s—helped get me involved in the Vietnam War protest.
Another, sung by Glenn Yarborough, appealed to the men around the pool but spoke to me also. I embraced the independence advocated in the song—the searching for what’s next in life. It became sort of an anthem of freedom for me.
A third song, written and sung by Simon and Garfunkel, forced me to truly look at the world in which I lived. It helped me recognize the alienation around me and the desperate need to find meaning. It helped me understand that I wasn’t the only person lost and confused.
The music of 1967 and the following ten years or so is embedded in my psyche. Those songs of protest, young love, human need—of taking to the road and being open to change—helped form the woman I was to become. Just as the goodness of my mother and the prayer and dedication of the convent nuns had formed me.
Slowly I was finding a life, but I needed help because mostly my mind was muddled. I still disliked myself intensely. So next week I hope to share with you what the second Dayton psychiatrist said to me. It was peace I was seeking and with him I found mostly questions to ask myself for a lifetime.