Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Body Leaping Backward
It was a typical family in the suburbs in the 1970's. Maureen Stanton was born into a middle class family in Walpole, Massachusetts. Her dad was a computer programmer and her mother stayed at home with the seven children. There was a hot meal every evening and sing alongs with her dad playing the piano. There were family trips and bedtime stories.
Then everything changed. Maureen's parents separated and nothing was the same. The just enough money became not enough money. Her saintly mother now routinely shoplifted clothes and food with the children watching. Her dad was relegated to infrequent, strained time with the children. There was little supervision of the children and no more sing alongs.
The children spiraled downward. One of the main features of their town was the infamous Walpole Penitentiary, where such criminals as The Boston Strangler were incarcerated. Over the years, the children had various friends who ended up there as well. They were left basically without supervision as their mother went back to work and then started dating; often leaving for entire weekends with her new boyfriend. As is often the case, unsupervised children find bad things to do.
In Maureen's case, it was angel dust and alcohol. For about two years in high school, she was high daily, smoking dust right before school which was not much more than a haze that occasionally interrupted her highs. She and her friends lived to party. They did dangerous things for money for drugs and sold them. They hitchhiked and took rides from men all the time, usually so impaired that it was only by the grace of God that they weren't harmed. Her mother and teachers didn't seem to notice or at least never seemed to intervene. Maureen was left to work her own way out of her addictions and hopelessness.
This memoir was meant by the author, I think, to highlight the issues surrounding drugs and how they can impact young people's lives. What came through to me, instead, was the incredible lack of supervision and help she encountered from the adults in her life. Today the helicopter parent gets lots of bad press and every generation has it's own way to get parenting wrong. But the way that Maureen was left to flounder around steeped in alcohol and drugs without adult intervention was far worse in my mind. This book is a warning to parents and recommended for readers of memoirs and those interested in social issues.