Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Year of Independent Living (1970's style)

After high school I moved out of my parents’ house to assert my independence. I found out that living alone was not always easy since I had to provide my own transportation and pay my own way. But in retrospect, it was a great year.
My parents had instilled responsibility in their children so I had no problem getting to work on time or making sure to pay my rent and do my laundry. I only bought what I really needed and travelled by bike or bus. Not being burdened by materialism, my year was filled with interesting people and places.
I worked at a hamburger chain with a crew that included friends about to depart for college, a spry 70+ year old woman who could still work a busy lunch hour, and a very short gal whose husband treated her like a princess. (Every night he would wash her uniform and draw her bath.) All summer we worked hard and relaxed afterwards. It was common to have breakfast at 1:00 in the morning at the local diner after our closing shift was done and the restaurant was scrubbed clean.
For a while I stayed at a females-only rooming house, probably one of the last of its kind. It had clean single rooms for about $25 per week. Down the hall a large, shared bathroom contained claw foot tubs in enclosed stalls made of bead board. I vaguely remember at least 5 stalls, but there could have been more. The living room had the only TV which was dominated by an all-girl roller derby team who were also staying there for the summer. They were very athletic and almost intimidating. They were smokers, I wasn’t. They invited me to go to their matches but my work schedule conflicted.
By the end of the summer I found a small apartment of my own. I could now watch what I wanted on TV! I bought a rug, a used sofa-bed, some dishes, and a combination radio and record-player. I was enjoying the good life.
Eventually I started working for a temp agency and found regular work. It lasted until the following summer when I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and my mother convinced me to move back home. But while I was on my own I took each step as it came, and I consider the year as a positive growing experience. I have found all through my life that we are given chances to learn and to grow.

I sometimes think about that rooming house. I wonder what it would have been like to live there in the thirties or forties.

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