What happened to the hippies? (That is: Where did they go?)
That question seeded my newest novel, What’s Left. The book, to be candid, has grown into something much bigger, and I hope more relevant to more readers. It’s about what’s happened to Cassia, born a decade after the hippies faded into, well, wherever.
My earlier Hippie Trails novels sought to examine just who the everyday hippies were in the first place. I’ve wanted to supplant mass-media stereotypes with more realistic examples to illustrate how hippies came, and still come, in all varieties.
But more recently, revisiting the happy ending of my first published novel filled me with a desire to know what happened to my hippie-boy protagonist once he’d settled down in marriage. Yes, as an author, I knew he was my offspring, but we’d become, well, estranged. As I pondered the possibilities of advancing the story forward a half-century, I realized my interest was less in exploring his situation as a retired hippie today and more in the wider legacy of the movement itself. Enter his daughter, born a decade after the hippie flowering. For her, the questions become: What is family? Who was my father? Why aren’t we normal? What happened to my happy childhood? Who can you trust? What is my essential identity? Were hippies just a big joke? Where are we going (meaning herself, her brothers, and her close cousins)? Just how are we shaped by having a family-owned business and all the interactions that go with it?
As she starts telling her side of the events at age 11 and moving into her teens, her answers multiply. And when she returns, as an adult, a healing happens.
As for the hippies? She might say her Greek great-grandparents were the first, in their own way.
With so much to work with, something had to give. In my newest novel, this was one of them:
Something else strikes him. In most philosophical discourses he’s experienced, the room’s filled with smoke. But here, nobody’s puffing anything – not even tobacco.
Even stranger: most late-night sessions resembling this have occurred over beer or wine or Tennessee sippin’ whiskey. In this, the family kitchen, however, the only thing to drink at this hour is juice or tea – herbal tea, at that.
Maybe wee-hours discussions like that are primarily for youth. As I recall, we were looking largely to the future and how we’d love to change things. You get older, though, you begin looking back more – good times and bad. Assuming you can stay up that late!
Where would you say the hippies went? Are you one? Have you known any? Would you like to be one?