BACK TO THE GARDEN • by Elizabeth Beechwood

I was passing out flowers in Golden Gate Park when Manuel came struttin’ down the street in his bellbottoms and bare chest. Perfect harmony and beautiful synergy, it descended on us right there and then. I told him so, too. Just walked up to him and handed him a daisy and said hey man, you’re my man.

Oh yeah, mamacita?

Oh yeah.

Free love. Fuck it. It don’t hold a candle to the real thing, the only-you-and-me thing, the let’s get married in the park thing, I’ll wear my gypsy skirt and you’ll wear Tommy’s top hat, and then we’ll move up to Sonoma County, Morningstar or Wheeler’s, and hoe a garden and eat off the land. Kids roaming free with the chickens and chickadees. Hell yeah. Free love don’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Pretty soon we had ourselves a baby girl, a sacred Holly Tree, and it was flawless harmony and synergy and how could you think for a moment that you weren’t stardust, you weren’t golden, you could never get back to that garden? No rules, babygirl, and no sin. Do what you feel and hurt none, we’re on the road to Shambala! We’re all a family, best friends, there ain’t no such thing as bedtime, babygirl.

We bought a bunch of dirt with the money Manuel had stashed away and we tilled a garden and lived like Thoreau with no electricity, only candles, babygirl, to light our way. Nothin’ like my own folks and their perfect pretend family — we were stardust, the original family in the garden. Manuel got a job at the vineyard on the other side of our property line ‘cause you can’t pay the taxes in homegrown and goat cheese. I kept the garden and our spirits organic. No hassles. Golden.

So what’s goin’ on, babygirl? What’s up with that music? And makeup? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wanna bring ya down, do your own thing, that’s cool. But really — how’d we get a babygirl like this? And then she came back from a friend’s house and declared her love for hot dogs. My babygirl ate the flesh of another creature, cannibalism, contaminating her pure precious body. I walked out into the tomatoes and sunflowers and cried.

And then it was cheerleading and off to college, then law school. Manuel said you’re one square cat, Holly Tree. She scrunched up her nose and said no one talks like that anymore, Dad. My mother’s voice was in my head like trackings during a trip: Don’t you sass your father, young lady. I swallowed the words. Do your own thing, freedom of speech, and lay it on me — it ain’t so easy to take coming from your kid. Manuel said don’t fret, mamacita, she’ll use it for good, for society, fight for the working man and the mamas with little babies crushed under the politico’s boot. Infiltrate the establishment. Change from within. Revolution. And look on the bright side, she’s going to Stanford. It’s not Berkeley but it ain’t so bad. We’ll sell off some of the land for tuition — the winery will pay real good and who knew homemade goat cheese was artisan and we can sell the vegetables and flowers at the farmer’s market in town.

Our babygirl, our sacred Holly Tree, grew into a brilliant divorce lawyer, with a lawyer husband and two little kids and a golden retriever named Skip, living up in The Heights.

Today we stopped by after Manuel’s appointment for his prostate and we grabbed those beautiful grandbabies of ours — all stardust and Ashley loves the tie-dyed shirt I made and Chad’s got tiny Birkenstocks that Manuel ordered on the internet — and headed down to The Haight. Some kids were playing at being hippies, selling daisies, so Manuel bought a handful and I braided them into halos. An old guy stood on the corner with an accordion, an authentic Child Of God, and he nodded to us ‘cause we all recognized our true natures in each other. He played and our grandbabygirl twirled and danced with her grandpa and our grandbabyboy bounced and laughed from his Buddha belly. Manuel said we’re really groovin’ grandbabygirl and Ashley scrunched up her nose and giggled and said you talk silly, Grandpa. Perfect harmony and beautiful synergy. The smell of patchouli and pot wafted through my memory and the streets were filled with our tribe, the children of stardust, golden, and I turned to Manuel and said hey man, you’re my man.

Oh yeah, mamacita?

Oh yeah.

Elizabeth Beechwood lives in the Pacific Northwest at the moment but has lived all over the country. This story was inspired by the Four of Wands and the music of Joni Mitchell and CSNY.

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