Children bounce back.
They always say that, don't they? Those mystical nonexistent 'they'.
I think 'they' never had enough bad happen to them as a child.
I meet so many people in my life, young as I am, that were forever wounded as children.
I can not say I ever became one of them. Sometimes I think it was the will of Jesus or some other cosmic force that kept me safer then I had any right to be.
1969, hippies turned violent. Hippies turned crazy. Charlie Mason arises from the ashes of blissful ignorance that all segments of society have good and evil, every people, everywhere, all through time. The hippies were not immune.
When we got on the bus, the colourful hippie bus made for many a free spirited soul, it was early August. We were traveling cross country.
My mothers and fathers were full of joy and they tried to instill it in me. I was about to see more of the country than I ever had before. I had heard many things of the outside world, outside of the world of San Francisco. Where there were hippies, more hippies, pigs, musical hippies, artist hippiest, political hippies, poet hippies, and straights.
I heard outside to confines of my little world existed more straights and pigs than hippies. I heard mountains and lakes and plains and deserts and forests existed out there. I heard the birth place of my mothers and fathers was somewhere out there, somewhere.
There was a lot out there I had yet to see.
I could not wait.
The trip became long quick.
The bus that looked like a painted school bus on the outside looked much different inside. It had some rows of seats in the front, until you actually got inside you didn't notice the area that was full of couches and rugs and pillows. Or the spiral staircase that lead to the roof. There was also a curtained off small area that had portal potty. It was for emergency only. It filled up quick. For those who could not wait until the scheduled stops or could not pee off the top of the bus. God did give man an unfair advantage in that one.
I didn't go up top unless the bus was stopped. Even if everyone else went up there a lot. It had to smell better than the bus when the potty was full.
As we drove across the country the bus got fuller and fuller as we picked up more people along the way. Some people we dropped off. Not many but I enjoyed the extra room when it happened.
I remember a woman, large with child. She was dropped off in the dessert. Her people lived there for thousands of years. Long before the Spanish came looking for gold. She had told me that. She said it was the Spanish who met her people not the English. I remembered what she taught me when I got to school. In school we did focus on the English meeting the Indians, not too much on anyone else.
When we got to what she called 'the rez', we all waited in the bus as she went into what was really a shack. There were sheep near by in a wooden fenced in pen. A lot of desert all around.It was really hot. I had never been too some place so hot in all my life. I wanted to go play with the sheep. My oldest father took me up top to see them better as we waited. It was less stuffy up top than inside the bus and a bit cooler. He would put his hat on me. I kept taking it off, it made my head hotter. He finally gave up and put a kerchief over my head. It seemed we waited forever.
An old women finally came out. She had some young boys with her. They were older then me, but still boys. She waived for us to come in. The boys came to the door and talked to the people inside and on the roof of the bus.
"Grandma says to come in and to stay here tonight. She will make fry bread and stew for everyone." They smiled as they spoke. I smiled a big smile waved to them. They waved back.
"Can I see your sheep!" I yelled from the top.
"Yeah, I can show you." said the oldest of the boys.
Oldest father and I waited until everyone else was off before coming down. I waived to each one as they stepped off. By this time there were about 15 people. The journey had just really begun.
While the boys took me to see the sheep, with my oldest father following behind, a lot of the women went to help with the cooking.
"Is that your Dad?" asked the younger boy.
"Yeah, one of them." I said, matter a factly.
They both stopped and looked at me. "How many you got?" they asked together.
"I never counted."
They just looked at me strange. I looked back at my oldest father. He was wincing at this point. He would offer no answer other then "It's complicated, kids, at the commune we are a big family, so we all take care of her."
At this moment I realized that this was not normal. I had never thought of it before. Even though other kids I saw with their mother and father didn't seem to have many of them. but in the community everyone did act like all the children were related to them. Whether it be mother, father, aunt or uncle, I had a lot of those, too.
They shook their heads in agreement "Just like all old women on the rez are grandmother." The oldest one said.
Seemed a great example to my oldest father. "Yup, just like that."
The oldest boy looked back at me "So you don't get away with nothing. Poor kid!"
They seemed to understand. Maybe it was not so different after all. I did get away with a lot back then. I realize it now.
The youngest one smiled. "I'm Billy and that's Joseph, what's your name?"
"Emma" I said that one first because it was the oldest father name for me. "Dandelion, Moonbeam, Butterfly, Peace Frog... ummmm."
"Matilda, Alice, Rainbow Walker, Rose and Papillon, not Butterfly honey, don't translate it." My oldest father chimed in when I couldn't remember the rest because I stopped being called those names once the people who called me them moved out.
"Oh yeah, and Ugly, that's what my mother calls me."
"Not Ugly!" Oldest father said sharply. "She gave you her last name on your birth certificate, Miller. Ugly is not on your birth certificate, remember that."
"You're mother calls you Ugly?" Joseph said as he gave the signal to run away from grown-ups.
"Yes, just the one who gave birth to me. She doesn't seem to like me. No-body else calls me that." I said as we were running.
We ended up on the other side of the pen so we could talk without my oldest father hearing.
We were out of breath and laughing.
"Hey, our mother gets drunk, says mean things to us, too. She finally just dumped us here with grandma and went off with some white guy who didn't want 'little injuns making noise' around." Billy said.
"We understand. You got people who care. We got grandma and now aunt Suzie is back. She is real nice. Grandma's real happy she's back."
"She told me her name was Little Feather?"
"She must have given herself an Indian name like in the movies." He laughed. " We were never given names like that. The people who come back from living with hippies will do that. The hippies like that. They gave you all sorts of Indian names. Which name do you like best?" Joey smiled as he asked me.
No-one had asked me that before. "I don't know." And I didn't. I just saw me as me without a name and with many. I was different things to different people. I was different things to myself. Sometimes I felt froggie, sometime I felt like a flower, and only around my mother did I ever feel ugly.
"I answer to all of them."
"Including Ugly." Joseph said looking at the ground.
"I am not!"
"Good." Joseph said with a smile. "Don't ever say that is your name again. Just say the names you want to hear."
"What name do you want to call me?" I asked the boys as I was pet the sheep.
"A little girl, with a butterfly on her face should be called Butterfly. The old ones would have said that when you were born. Butterflies are special." Billy said reflectively.
"Papillon. It means butterfly in french."
"We will call you Butterfly. It will be your name in Indian country. You can say a real Indian gave it to you." They laughed as Joseph said the last bit.
"Because we are real Indians!" Billy said.
We played some more as oldest father watched from the other side of the pen.
All I ever knew of Indians were from Westerns on television and an episode of Star Trek. There were conflicting views of them on television. None matched Suzie Little Feather or her family. I didn't realize they were Indians until they told me so. Maybe they were different ones then the ones on television. I don't recall them being sheepherders in the movies.
We were about worn out from playing when big mother came over and said it was time for supper.
We went towards the house. We washed up outside where the water was in a bucket. The table from the house was set up outside. Some of the people took their food up to the roof of the bus. Us children, we sat at the table with grandmother. This was the first grandmother I ever really saw or talked to. She didn't really talk English all that well and would just say things like "nice girl, good girl" to me with a loving smile.
The food was great. I have decided I love fry-bread. We had it with the thick mutton stew. Suzie had brought bags of food home with her. I thought it was very odd at the time, but Joseph and Billy were very happy to have the food she brought, especially the candy and gum.
After supper I realized their outhouse didn't smell any better than the bus' potty.
After night started falling oldest father brought me and the boys up to the roof of the bus. We sat up and listened to some of my mothers and fathers and friends making music. Oldest father laid me back on him so my eyes rested on the skies and my back on his chest. He covered us in a blanket and make sure the boys were covered, too. Oldest father started talking about the stars. He told us stories about the stars the constellations and we even saw a few shooting stars. Every time one came by he would say "Make a wish, children. The star will carry the wish to the universe. And it just might be granted."
I shut my eyes each time and made my wishes and the last time I shut my eyes, I fell asleep.