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Pictures in the Rear View Mirror
Susan Hornfeld : Pictures in the Rear View Mirror

Pictures in the Rear View Mirror Introduction

By Susan Hornfeld

I M A Boomer

For what seems like centuries I have wanted to tell the tales of one baby boomer or as I like to think about it, a tiny little cell of the "pig in the python." I am a middle boomer, not an early boomer like my sister, or a late boomer like my younger friends. According to census date there were 79 million of us born between 1946 and 1964. For comparison the generation just behind us numbers only 66 million, and is generally referred to as the 1970's "baby bust." That, my friends, is reason number 436 that I am glad to be a boomer; imagine the challenges in being stuck with a "busted" moniker you can never outgrow.

Dr. Massey, You're a Quack

When I was twenty I saw the Massey Tapes. It was the first time I thought of myself as a baby boomer. For those of you who missed Dr. Massey's masterpiece, he pontificated for 16 hours about how ours would be the lost generation; one destined to be completely irrelevant to history. He predicted that there would never be a boomer President, (uh, Bill Clinton), that boomers would never hold a financial position that would drive the free market, (advertisers would beg to differ), and that we were doomed to be bad parents. Of these, the only prediction that is, I suspect, at least somewhat true is about parenting. (Don't get me started on Generation X, or Y or worse yet the Millennium Generation.) But as my friends often tell me, a childless person has no right to an opinion on parenting. They reason that seeing as how I bear none of the scores of puckered scars they earned as parents, I should just shut up. They forget that my slight limp and wrinkled forehead came from decades of training and counseling employees exactly like their kids. But I cede the point.

I resented Dr. Massey, as did every boomer sitting in that classroom with me, but we also feared and/or hoped that he might be right. After all, that very afternoon hundreds of my classmates were protesting the war on the other side of campus. Flags were burned and the Great Generation's "V for Victory", became the universally understood symbol for, "Peace, man." Most of us dressed like hippies and almost everyone had tried drugs, except for those who didn't inhale. (I never personally met that person) I think, in more ways than we knew, we had plenty in common with our parents, but until I was over 30 and no longer to be trusted, they were aliens who just didn't get it.

Ticket to Ride (with) — The Beatles

Throughout this series I will pair musical references with specific memories, just as more sophisticated boomer might pair wine with food. Many non-boomers wonder about the emphasis our generation placed on music; anointing it as a pillar of our social landscape. Aside from the fact that it is still wildly popular today, I hear it in my head, like a soundtrack to the movie that is my life. Scientists say that the sense of smell is the sharpest reminder of experiences, but for many of us, it was the music. From the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac, their voices were echoes of our own. Folk heroes like Timothy Leary urged us to do what we really wanted to do, "Turn on, tune in, and drop out." When we did , music was often the result. More than any generation before us, the baby boomers began to interconnect, often through music. Once we did we were confronted with a visceral recognition of our power. Not always understanding that this awesome clout was sometimes used for good and other times, not so much, we just danced our way through the decades. But for good or evil what was very clear right from the start was that if we spoke in one voice, that voice was very, very LOUD.

1965 Was a Very Good Year for Mustangs

Maybe these stories will be things you have heard about Baby Boomers, ad nauseam. Or maybe you never want to hear those millions of voices shouting IMABoomer ever again. (You will miss us when we're gone.) But in this series I want to share personal stories from the heap of recollections crowding the mind of one insignificant cell of the "pig in the python." I hope you will join me. Our vehicle on this road trip through the past will be the first car I ever owned, a 1965 Mustang. How about you ride shotgun and we take her out for a whirl? •

Next: Who's in Second? »

© 2012 Susan Hornfeld. All rights reserved.

Susan Hornfeld lives in Michigan with her husband Roy and Baylee, the dog. More »

3/23/12