Saturday, March 17, 2012

Forty Years Ago

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the day I moved in with E. My mother worried that our relationship wouldn't last a month. She feared that E. would break up with me and I'd be devastated. Our friend, Hoyt, didn't give us six months. I wasn't worried. I just wanted to be with E. and wasn't thinking more than a day ahead.

I arrived in Northampton, Massachusetts from New York City on a Peter Pan bus. E. picked me up and we headed over to the apartment of our college friends, Tad and Abby. Abby had prepared a Chinese dinner. I was impressed by their domesticity. While living in New York, I had almost never cooked. I either dined at my favorite Greek taverna in the Village or ate a bowl of granola for supper.

The farmhouse as it looks today.
After dinner, E. and I headed home to Hadley, where E. shared a farmhouse on West Street with several friends. Behind the house stretched asparagus fields farmed by our landlord, Mr. Kozera, who lived next door. In a fit of feminism, I had insisted on having my own room, for which I paid rent. Not that I ever slept there, but it did give me a place to keep my clothes.

Mostly, I remember the music. E. had an amazing collection of LPs and in fact at the time ran a used-record business. I would listen to Taj Mahal singing Corinna for hours on end, punctuated by Paul Siebel crooning Jasper and the Miners. (Click on the links to hear the songs.) Years later, we decided that if we ever had a baby girl, we would name her Corinna.

I felt I should get a job, though I had no particular desire to work. When I learned that an old-fashioned ice cream parlor was opening up nearby, I thought that might be the perfect spot for me. After all, I loved ice cream. During my interview with the manager, I enthusiastically told him about my fondness for ice cream. Immediately, I realized my mistake. I could see from his expression that he envisioned me eating all the profits.

Instead, I got a position as a stringer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, reporting on meetings of various local government entities. The most memorable was a raucous Northampton Zoning Board hearing that featured a supposedly-liberal Smith College faculty member protesting the use of a home in his neighborhood as a halfway house, my first encounter with the NIMBY phenomenon.

Not having a car, I had boldly stated my determination to hitchhike to my assignments. That lasted about a week. After a creepy-looking guy tried to get me to climb into his pickup truck, I asked E. if he would give me a lift to future assignments. I wasn't ready to drive his Saab Sonett sports car myself (and he wasn't quite ready to let me).

Within a month, E. had asked me to marry him. We picked a date in June. And we decided not to tell anyone about our upcoming nuptials. But that's another story, already recounted in Anatomy of a Wedding, Part One and Anatomy of a Wedding, Part Two. (Click on the links to read the story.)

Since our marriage was to be a secret, we realized that we would have no one at the ceremony to take our photograph. One of our housemates was an aspiring photographer, so a day or two before the wedding, we asked him to take a picture of us. The result was the portrait below, kind of an updated American Gothic. I like to think that it captures our state of mind as well as the zeitgeist of the era—a little spaced out, with a dash of counterculture, and a strong belief that love can save the world.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Photograph by Steve Horn


  1. Love the story and the photo!

  2. I love what the photographer Edward Weston wrote in his Daybooks, "How young I was!" Tomorrow I'm going to see a friend from college who I haven't seen since the 60s. How does 40 or 50 years occur in what seems like a nanosecond.

  3. Really sweet. Makes me a little teary. I think I may have had a dress kinda like that from the Village.

    Happy 40th. Can't wait for your return to the North.

  4. Just love this and the picture. Fun and important memories. Jeanie

  5. Oh Barbara, I really love the story and the photo. It brings back such vivid memories of that time in my own life. I had a dress nearly identical to that with huge flowers, hair flowing down my back. Like Kim says...a nanosecond ago. Bonnie