Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Coop Goes to High School Part 10 – School’s Out

December 13th, 2013

schools-outAt the end of each previous school year, I was jubilant to have survived another “tour of duty” and be liberated, at least for the summer, from society’s schooling requirement imposed on my developmental path. Finally finishing my senior year, there was a measure of that usual relief, along with a sense that somehow the ball was now finally in my court. What to do next was no longer mandated, but up to me. As I walked that big impersonal marble hallway of Pioneer High School for my last time as a student, the nihilism (an ideology that I had learned in my Modern Russian History Class was very different than anarchism) of Alice Cooper’s hit song, “School’s Out”, resonated with every fibre of my being…

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
Cuz they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

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Coop Goes to High School Part 9 – On My Own Terms

November 23rd, 2013

Me bottom row 2nd from the left and some of my JLO comrades

Me bottom row 2nd from the left and some of my JLO comrades

Living life on my own terms, at my own cadence, surrounded by those with whom I could share a sense of real collaboration and community, that’s what I wanted. Not some day in the future after I’d jumped through all society’s hoops and proven my worthiness to be a full-fledged adult, but now, January 1972, as I pondered what classes I would sign up for for my last semester of high school. There was so much going on, as George Harrison so elegantly called out in his song “Within You Without You”…

And the time will come when you see
we’re all one, and life flows on
within you and without you.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 8 – Starting Senior Year

November 2nd, 2013

JLO's 1972 production of Oliver! on the set I designed

JLO’s 1972 production of Oliver! on the set I designed

For the past eleven years, as my summer vacation waned each August, I would avoid for as long as possible thinking about having to go back to school. When that moment finally came and I had to focus on getting ready, I would prepare my tender psyche as best I could for all the new situations I would be thrown into and all the new people I would encounter who I did not know, and did not know me. The latter had always been particularly problematic for me, because I was shy and I hated being judged by other people, particularly people who I had not had the long time I typically needed to establish “diplomatic relations” with them. Those “diplomatic relations” involved the other person accepting and respecting me for all the aspects of myself that I had revealed and my doing the same for them. The more I could reveal over time the stronger the relationship became and the more I could relax and be myself. Any person I could not establish this sort of pact with I would avoid as best I could. School seemed always to be a problematic venue for my sort of interpersonal “diplomacy”.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 7 – Song & Dance

October 26th, 2013

Me and my Ado Annie in Oklahoma

Me and my Ado Annie in Oklahoma

They say that the only two things you can be sure of in life are death and taxes.  But for most every kid, the one thing you can be sure of is going to school, which for me was a taxing and at times felt like a near-death experience.  For twelve straight years (I skipped kindergarten) , whether I liked it or not, whether it was the right place for me to develop myself or not, I reported dutifully in the fall and served until the next summer.  At this point I had spent the last eleven straight years dutifully reporting to my designated school facility each September and dreading it each and every time.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 6 – In Front of the Lights

October 12th, 2013

Me on the right in Lord of the Flies

Me on the right in Lord of the Flies

Returning from a week of something completely different, my junior year spring break trip with my school Russian club to the Soviet Union, I was about to plunge into a new developmental phase after a recent twelve months filled with one developmental experience after another.  I was already in many ways transformed from the person I’d been that previous April.  Still shy and intimidated by most adults, and filled with a fair amount of general anxiety, but beginning to be able to define and establish myself as a unique person playing a significant role in a larger community of people.

At the moment, Junior Light Opera, the unique youth theater group I had plunged into the midst of, was my main developmental “growing edge”, along with the feminist ideologies I was being exposed to in my extended “family” of my mom’s close female friends (what I now dub my “Feminist Aunts”).  In JLO I had become a respected member and part of the leadership circle of the company and had developed and demonstrated my technical skills backstage, behind the lights.  I was now about to take the leap of going out on stage, in front of those lights and in front of an audience, waiting for me and my fellow actors to entertain and otherwise engage them.

Again, as in the previous segment of this story, I have changed the names of my friends for their privacy.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 5 – Behind the Lights

October 2nd, 2013

Stage LightsThe story picks up in November 1970 almost halfway through three years of high school, still recovering from having jilted my first girlfriend (and being too shy to even face her after that), and Smokey Robinson part of my current Greek chorus on the AM radio with his “Tears of a Clown”…

Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression

It reminded me that the persona I was putting out in the world was still mostly smoke and mirrors as well. That admitted, my Junior Light Opera youth theater group was opening up a new world of possibilities for me to define myself as a talented technician rather than just a lovelorn loser.

Just a quick note before we get into this segment… I’ve changed all the names of my friends to protect their privacy.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 4 – The Play’s the Thing

September 22nd, 2013

hairI returned from my summer in England just a week before school was to start for my junior year of high school, having missed my normal summer activities and been disconnected from my neighborhood friends for those ten weeks I had been gone, but also having undergone a personal transformation from my summer odyssey. I was still a shy kid, but I had a heightened sense of agency from partnering with my mom on our summer adventure in England. I was ready in this school year ahead to play a more active role charting my own course rather than just going with the flow of my school classes and current neighborhood social circle.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 3 – Summer Swap to England

September 18th, 2013

My passport picture around my 15th birthday in 1970

My passport picture around my 15th birthday in 1970

My mom was always a smart creative person with tremendous ingenuity and a strong sense that life at its best should be an adventure. She had never been to Europe herself, but she had grown up around more economically privileged kids whose families had, and she felt this sort of an experience was an important part of a young person’s full education and development. Despite her financial limitations, she was determined to find a way to make such travel happen for her two sons.

An opportunity presented itself in the spring of 1970 when my mom heard from an acquaintance that they had traded houses with a family in Oxford England for the summer, both being big college towns with people always looking to take classes at the other university. So my mom placed an ad in the Oxford University paper and got a reply from a graduate student who was looking to come to the University of Michigan with his wife to attend a special summer program. My mom worked it out with them that we would exchange both our houses and our cars for ten weeks, from the last week of June until late August. We got our passports and my mom managed to find a cheap charter flight for herself, my brother and I from the nearby Detroit airport to Amsterdam in late June returning from London Gatwick airport in late August. She made hotel reservations for our first few days in Amsterdam, until such time as the house was vacant in Oxford.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 2 – First Year

September 15th, 2013

Pioneer HighContinuing from part one, this is part two in my attempt to recollect and record in writing my high school years which were so significant to me developmentally, not so much because of what I did in class, but what I did in my life beyond the schoolroom.

Pioneer high school was a big public high school with over 2000 students, one of two at the time in Ann Arbor, located on the southwest side of town about a mile and a half from my house. It was a sprawling building on an even bigger campus of lawn and parking lots looking more like a high-tech business campus than a typical high school. When I first entered to register for classes the week before school started the main hallway was broad and institutional with what I remember to be a polished formica or marble-like floor, nothing to give the place a sense of a human scale. The school was a string of buildings connected in an L-shape, maybe at least a quarter of a mile from one end to the other.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 1 – Good Riddance to Junior High

September 8th, 2013

A junior high yearbook picture

A junior high yearbook picture

In the summer of 1969, at age 14, it was a still recovering soul that did his best to psych up for yet another year of going to school after barely surviving the last three very difficult years at Tappan Junior High. Zager and Evans’ dystopian classic “In the Year 2525”, about a doomed world, was the big summer hit on CKLW AM radio.  Perhaps more hopeful were all the songs on the radio from the provocative rock musical Hair about hippies and human liberation, as expressed by the reality and underlying metaphor of “letting your hair down”.

Oh say can you see
My eyes if you can
Then my hair’s too short

The iconic Woodstock music festival, which I knew nothing about at the time, was happening in upstate New York that August, the climactic event in what some would later call the “summer of love”.  But the musical Hair at least made me familiar with that counterculture that was emerging with its “flower children” driven by a mantra of “peace, love, joy” facilitated by “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” which allowed you to “tune in, turn on and drop out”.

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