Let Your Freak Flag Fly

An iconic old childhood song played in my head all morning. I finally slowed down, listened to the lyrics and realized what it was saying to me, from the culture of a certain subset of my elders that I am so sad to lose.
One morning I woke up and I knew
you were really gone
A new day, a new way, and new eyes
to see the dawn.
Go your way, I’ll go mine
and carry on
The sky is clearing, and the night
has cried enough
The sun, he come, the world
to soften up
Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice
but to carry on

I was in Minneapolis for a memorial service this weekend. Goodbye to a beautiful firey Swedish-American working class beatnik/hippie freak/back to the lander who was my late mother’s best friend of 50 years. A genius gardener who even gardened the woods, a mother whose youngest son (age ~50) compared her loss to that recent photo of a black hole at the center of the galaxy. Only, I think he said “universe,” because he meant his.

Grief is love with nowhere to go, someone recently said to me. Have to find fresh outlets and exercise for that love, and one good and tested path is to emulate the things you most miss about the dead.

Déjà Vuthat whole gorgeous moody country hippie 1970 period piece, will always remind me of my Free To Be, You And Me childhood ideals. The third track , “Almost Cut My Hair” was the first place I ever heard the phrase “letting my freak flag fly.” In the 70s, that song just sounded like a stack of wink-wink parental inside jokes. It opened to me through the years, along with the understanding of why everyone passed around a single hand-rolled cigarette at my uncle’s house, instead of smoking a normal one apiece.

Decades later I finally noticed the similar lyric in the earlier song “If 6 Was 9” on Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 Axis, Bold as Love, which was also in my mom’s enormous record collection. Before I tuned into that, I’d heard the same phrase referenced in “How Can I Sing Like A Girl,” by TMBG (Factory Showroom, 1996) which goes for pure metaphor, no mention of a hippie haircut.

I am deeply fond of “Almost Cut My Hair.” Sometimes you feel tired and scared and have second thoughts about how you’re sticking out from the norm, you think you should tone it down, straighten out, get with the program…

But I’m not giving in an inch to fear,
Cause I promised myself this year,
I feel, like I owe it, to someone.

When people die, it’s an opportunity to be kind to their memories, forgive their worst, and love them for their best. Thank you dear women who broke so radically from how you were raised, and paid dearly for that break sometimes. Flew your freak flags high, danced all night, read stacks of library books, created beauty all your own, raised food and flowers and most of the kids within reach, swore without shame, protested evils at every opportunity even though you never got the fucking ERA, kept learning and arguing and changing your minds, stuck to your unfashionable beer, and always had some love and an open fridge for a guest or six. I’ll have to carry on. “Love is coming to us all.”

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