12.12.2010

Free To Be You and Me

There's no way to write this post so that it's not ridden with cliches, I'm afraid, so perhaps I'll summarize the initial cliches so that the main one will be more tolerable.
  • Like every person my age who had vaguely hippie-ish parents, I listened to--and loved--Free To Be You and Me as a child.  I remember rocking out in my room, with my own record player.
  • Once I became not only an adult but also a Women's and Gender Studies professor, I bought a CD version of the album so that I could play select bits for my classes.
  • The other day I read a Bitch magazine interview with Rosey Grier, the NFL player who recorded "It's Alright to Cry" for Free To Be You and Me.  I realized that I'd never--never!  How is this possible?--played any of it for Maybelle.  She has an iPod playlist that's 200 songs long, but not one song is from FTBYAM.  I then went through a week-long process of trying to find the CD until I realized that it was in my office.
  • I brought it home, and one evening when Maybelle and I were hanging out in the living room, I put on the first song, "Free To Be You and Me."
Okay, so this is where we enter into lengthier cliche terrain:  this is an album that in many ways encapsulates second wave feminist visions of parenthood and/as revolution.  In some ways it's old news, and yet it surprised me how fresh and relevant it felt as I played it for Maybelle.  Some of the lyrics of this first song are
There's a land that I see
where the children are free.
And I say it ain't far
to this land from where we are....
And you and me are free to be
you and me.
There are rivers that run free in the song, and a green country, and horses.  Potentially quite goofy, and yet the first, let's say, ten times I played the song for Maybelle, I cried.  Mind you, we also danced:  it's an excellent song with a banjo and a rock break-out at the end, and Maybelle and I are both skilled dancers (see some of the pictures from the DSAL holiday party if you doubt me). 

But the lyrics hit me at two levels.  I remembered them surprisingly well from my own childhood, a time when those lyrics seemed incredibly matter of fact and not the tiniest bit radical.  Of course I was free to be whoever I was going to be--that was a foundational assumption in my childhood.  Listening to them as a parent, though, a parent of a child who is both female and has a developmental disability, meant that I heard the radical message in a much clearer way.  My life's work is very much about creating space where people can reach their full potential, where obstacles and oppressions are removed so that they can be whoever they're meant to be.  And I desperately wish for a world where Maybelle is truly free to be herself.  We're so much closer to that world now than we were in 1972, when the album was released.  But there's still a lot of work to be done.

5 comments:

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

One of my very favorite books and CDs, then and now, for all the same reasons you mentioned. (They've updated the book, you know ... not sure how I feel about that, but I love both of them still the same.)

starrlife said...

My sister has the videotape- love it. Thanks for reminding me.

The Mom said...

And of course your mom was in tears as she read that!

Shannon Drury said...

I remember the first time I played the CD for my infant son. It was the first time that I had heard it since I was a kid, as the vinyl eventually wore out, and I'll admit it--I CRIED. Rosey would have been proud.

Quiche said...

I would have liked to have had that book as a kid...I'm sure it was much too "liberal" for my folks, and the C of C mentality. I got the alternate version: "Freewill Does Not Mean Free to Be You and Me" -ha!