By chance, I came across a documentary today called Following Sean. It is actually a sort of sequel to a film made by the same director 30 years before called simply Sean.
The original 15 minute student film documented a conversation between the director Ralph Arlyck, and a boy named as you may have already guessed, Sean, who happened to be his neighbor in the Haight Asbury neighborhood of San Francisco back in 1969. Sean’s parents were the poster children so to speak for that time and that place. Their little 4 year old son was given an incredible amount of freedom to come and go as he pleased, running barefoot up and down the streets of the Haight. It’s a stunning film which definitely left its audience wanting to know more about the sweet talkative boy.
30 years later we have our answers in the feature length film Following Sean. I can’t recommend it enough. I found the original on YouTube and the follow up can be found on Netflix.
I've been thinking about the film all day. In particular, I've been thinking about the ways in which my upbringing paralleled Sean's, as well as the ways it didn't.
The first few years of my life were spent within about a 20 minute walk away from Sean's house in the Haight. My free spirited mother remarried when I was 2 or 3 and we moved to the suburbs. She and my stepfather were never as extreme as Sean's parents but there's definitely some similarities. If they'd ever had crossed paths I'm sure they would've all made fast friends.
What we never saw in the film was how Sean ate or slept. I'm not sure why that's been on my mind all day. But considering our parents, I have a hunch it wasn't too different than what we ate at our house. So all day my mind has been stirring up memories of my mom and her meals.
When I close my eyes and think back to the late 70's/early 80's, I see my mom barefoot in shorts and a tank top, with her long red wavy hair held back by a bandana handkerchief. When she wasn't working in the backyard garden, she was inside cooking and doing laundry for our family of 7. She ran what she liked to call "a tight ship", which I suppose is necessary with 5 kids.
She was very against brand name labels and buying very much that wasn't generic. "It's just marketing and packaging", she would say. "It all tastes the same", she would say. The same would go with anything she grew from her garden. Our dinner salads were plucked fresh from the backyard. I can still hear the grit of the dirt in my teeth from the hastily rinsed out lettuce. Makes me shudder to this day.
But breakfasts were her pride and joy. Her own invention she called a Super Drink. I'm still not entirely sure what was in it but milk, wheat germ, and possibly egg were involved. We used to have races to see who could chug it down the quickest without throwing it up before dashing off to school. I don't ever remember winning. Not even once.
Looking back now as a mother, I realize it took a lot of effort for my hippie mom to feed us as organically as she did. It wasn't the status quo. She didn't have to but I can appreciate her efforts now and I hope one day my daughter will too. But heck, believe me when I say that I wouldn't order up a Super Drink right now even if you paid me. Yuck!