• 24 July - Thursday - Smalton
At breakfast I asked more about Kevin and Brigid and their house. "When I lived in Ann Arbor, it was pretty close to downtown. I walked everywhere. In fact, that's when I stopped having a driver's license. Where is their house?"
"Just outside of Ann Arbor, actually," said Patrick, "not within the city limits. They have their own well, use heating oil for their furnace and propane for cooking and a backup generator. They have several acres left over from the original farm, with a few outbuildings, a large garden and a small orchard."
"Kevin and Brigid don't have children," said Sarah. "They hire students to help them take care of the place and often have one or two students boarding with them."
"Ann Arbor is a really nice town," I said, "especially now, before the malls were built and drew stores away from downtown. I'm sure you know it's something of a hotbed of alternative schooling. Clonlara already exists as a tiny school, and soon there will be a couple of alternative high schools on the schools-without-walls idea; a spinoff from Pioneer High and of course the infamous Commie High, officially known as Community High School."
Sarah and Patrick nodded. "When was it that you lived there? Or will live there?"
"In about ten years, during the early eighties. Actually rented a house from the Montgomerys at one point, on State Street near Packard, across from a fire station."
"You did? So Clonlara is successful?"
"Oh, yes. Clonlara has a world-wide reach now, that is in 2017. Commie High still exists. Hey, even Summerhill in England is doing well. Clonlara is an advocate for alternative schooling in the U.S. and Summerhill is officially recognized by the government in the U.K. Alternative and free schools were a bit of a fad in the U.S. in the seventies, but remnants remain and homeschooling is still going strong."
"I wish I had been able to go to a free school," said Nan. "I absolutely hate the thought of two more boring, stupid, worthless years of high school."
"I know," said Sarah, "but there aren't any free schools in this part of the country and it would be too odd for a couple of teachers to homeschool their children."
"Then you should have moved someplace more reasonable!"
"Nan, let's not have this discussion again. There are reasons we decided not to move. Being here for Lisa was one of them. There has, had, been some discussion of her living with us the next year so that you wouldn't be alone and she would be away from some of her problems."
"Okay, but clearly that's no longer relevant. Things have changed."
"Yes, things have changed, but you're still only fifteen, Nan."
"I'll be sixteen next month, and you know that's the legal dropout age in Missouri. I'm already a published poet and song writer. I'm not dropping out to do drugs and turn tricks. Sheesh!
"How is finishing school going to do anything but waste my time and make me angry and bitter? Two more years of school would make me want to do drugs! What I need is time and space to write. A decent band to write for wouldn't hurt."
"Oh, Nan," sighed Sarah.
"Ann Arbor sounds like a great place for you, Nan," I said.
"Lisa, please," began Patrick.
"Sorry, but I sympathize with Nan. I hated school and was dreadfully unhappy from middle school on. If I learned anything useful in school, it was by accident. I would sneak books into school to read during classes. I read the Iliad and the Oddyesy that way during a boring seventh grade history class. I read hundreds of books every year, mostly out of class.
"I realize you and Nan have a lot in common that way," said Sarah.
"I loved living in Ann Arbor. There is so much going on there. In fact, it's sometimes called little New York because of that. Maybe Anna and Maggie and I will head for A-squared."
"On the assumption that I'm going to be living there while going to UM," said Sean, "that's a possibility, I suppose."
"No! And leave me here alone in this little town full of conservative dorks? I'd rather die!" Nan shoved her chair back from the table and ran toward the stairs. Anna followed her a moment later.
"Sorry, Lisa," said Sarah. "This is a discussion we've been having for a long time. Nan is very unhappy in school and has been dreading the time when Sean goes off to college, which he really needs to do."
"I need that student deferment, and I like the thought of being close to Canada, in case I loose the lottery next year," said Sean.
I turned to him with a sudden shock of memory. "Holy crap; the draft! I'd totally forgotten. That's why you said you were thinking of spending time in Canada. Oh, Sean!"
Sean leaned over to put his arm around me. "Lisa. I'm not going. I'm trying to get conscientious objector status. If that fails, then I will go to jail or leave the country."
"That war was so horrible, ruined so many lives, and it was pointless, stupid, evil and accomplished nothing. Ann Arbor is a great place to be anti-war." If you don't get too carried away with the SDS and all that.
"This war," said Maggie, "it is not just?"
"Hell, no!" chorused the O'Malleys and myself.
"Sean, if I remember correctly, and I think I do, because it was important to me at the time, the December 1971 lottery is the last one that is actually used to call anyone for conscription, from men turning 20 during 1972. Lotteries continued to take place for a while, but the U.S. pulled out of the war in early 1973 and the authority to conscript expired and has never been renewed."
"So you mean it's just one time for me?"
"That's the way I remember it."
Nan and Anna had come back downstairs and were standing together in the kitchen doorway, holding hands.
"What's up with you two," growled Maggie.
"I promised Nan I wouldn't leave her alone,"said Anna. "She clearly needs a muse. Lisa can get by with just you."
"What? I'm not leaving you alone with that weirdo!" said Maggie.
"Fine, then the four of us will stay together."
"Just a minute," said Sean. "I'm not leaving Lisa alone with you four weirdos!"
"Then you're included," said Nan. "And since you're going to live in Ann Arbor, then all five of us will live in Ann Arbor."
"You haven't even talked with Kevin and Brigid!" said Sean.
"Yes, I think the first step had better be calling Brigid and asking whether the five of you can visit for a week," said Aunt Sarah. "I'll call her after we clear away the dishes."
"You mean you're not saying no to this?" said Nan, incredulous.
"As you say, things have changed. This is going to affect all of us. I'm just trying to keep an open mind, dear."
I helped clear the breakfast dishes while Sean and Maggie had a noisy discussion with Nan and Anna.
Sarah called Brigid from the den and talked for a while, explaining that I had shown up unexpectedly with two theater friends, but still wanted to visit Ann Arbor. Brigid said that two more would be no problem; they only had one student boarding at present.
"Lisa, I didn't say anything about your unusual circumstances. I leave that to you to explain, or not."
"Thanks. The five of us can talk about that while we're driving up there."
Sean had pulled the road atlas off the shelf and was looking at maps. "Looks like Interstate all the way into Michigan. Just head for St. Louis, then I-70 through Illinois into Ohio, pick up I-75 north of Dayton and that takes us past Toledo straight to Ann Arbor. We could probably do it in one day, if we swap drivers, but there are state parks and at least one KOA along that stretch of I-75."
"You are not going to drive that far in one day," said Sarah.
"We'll camp, Mom. Don't worry," said Nan.
"And you'll call us from the campground?" said Patrick.
"If there's a phone. We'll call from somewhere, I promise, Dad," said Sean.
"Anna and I can sleep in the station wagon with the deck down, and just use blankets," said Nan. "Sean, Lisa and Maggie can use the tent and the summer weight sleeping bags."
"I'm not very happy with that plan," said Maggie.
"Look, Mags," said Anna, "we'll lock the car doors. If there's trouble, you'll be in a better position to react to it from the tent."
"Some kinds of trouble," said Maggie, giving Anna a stern look.
"Why would there be trouble?" asked Patrick.
"They're just being melodramatic," I said, quickly. "They see this as an adventure. We'll be perfectly fine."
"Okay," said Sarah. "Sean, why don't you all sort out the camping gear, and figure out how everything is going to fit in the wagon. I don't think it makes sense for you to haul all the gear to cook for only one night, but you'll need the ice chest and water cooler. Nan and Anna, come to the store with me and we'll buy supplies for sandwiches."
"A watermelon for after dinner? Bananas with breakfast cereal?"
"I want cantaloupe," said Sean. "Lisa, you still prefer raisin bran?"
"That would be good," I nodded. "And I'll gladly eat bananas or cantaloupe, too."
The remainder of the day was spent preparing for the trip. Nan and Anna were basically the same size, so Nan happily shared some of her clothes. Maggie and I were also of a size, so we shared what I had brought from my bedroom. Sean had a couple of spare flannel shirts we packed in case it was cool late at night or early in the morning. We were thinking of this as a one week trip, of course.
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