Musings of a Matriarch

Reflections: It’s the 1970s all over again

Sharon Kennedy, Journal columnist

The 1970s did me in. All my troubles began with the seventies and their strobe lights and burned draft cards and 99 cents a gallon gasoline and the relentless Viet Cong who didn’t know they were defeated but just kept coming and coming, garbed in twigs and mud, too stupid and fearless to know they couldn’t win a war against the Americans, but smart enough to know they couldn’t lose it either.

Every place I looked there was civil disobedience and body parts flying helter-skelter on the six o’clock news and remnants of Woodstock and drugs and women screaming about equal rights. I’m 71 years old now and like many Baby Boomers, I drifted through life much like a grasshopper jumps from one blade of grass to another looking for something it can’t find because it doesn’t know what it’s looking for. I was a secretary, a stay-at-home mom, a substitute school teacher. At 53 I enrolled in a two week poetry workshop at NMU. That workshop awakened the writer I always felt was in me.

I decided to earn my M.A. in English and when the fall semester began I drove to Marquette twice a week and attended classes. With winter fast approaching, I knew I had two choices. My courses were not offered online so I could either take the spring semester off or quit my job as an English instructor at Bay Mills Community College, move to graduate housing, and get my degree. My 18-year-old daughter asked what I wanted to do. I told her if she could manage on her own with the help of my mother, I’d be off like a shot. She told me to go for it.

The six months I lived on campus were some of the most rewarding of my life. Free from everything except class work, I concentrated on writing short stories and poems. I wrote every day and to my amazement, my professors loved my work. My master’s prospectus was accepted without requiring revisions. Creatively, I was on my way. I graduated in the fall of 2001 and began teaching English Composition at Lake Superior State University. What a letdown!

That career choice was a major mistake. I guess I was too cynical and lacked the necessary patience to teach students who were either too arrogant or too bored to pay attention. My philosophy went something like this. If my students hadn’t learned how to write a composition paper in all their previous years of schooling, there was little chance I was going to teach them anything.

After three excruciating years, I called it quits. Not knowing what to do with my time I started writing a blog but I had no followers. However, I did have some good pieces and on a whim I took them to the editor of our local newspaper. After glancing them over, he said he would run my column twice a week. When I left his office, I had no idea what I was going to write about. My interest was short stories.

But at the ripe old age of 66 I started writing “Common Sense at 60” and realized I saw a story everywhere. I wrote a general interest 450 word column twice a week for 30 months. I received no payment for my efforts, but those columns morphed into a book I published in 2016. I gave readings whenever an organization or library requested. When I read, I did more than just stand and parrot what was on the page. I performed. Folks often came up to me when I finished and said if my writing didn’t work out, I could always go on the road as a comic.

When I say it’s the seventies all over again, I mean it’s a crazy time in my life. I write almost every day and submit my stuff on the chance someone might publish it. The Mining Journal’s managing editor, Bud Sargent, saw merit in my work and invited me to submit a weekly column that has appeared regularly in the Thursday edition of Journal since 2016, but now it’s time for me to move on.

Maybe the 1970s did me a favor. If I hadn’t lived through some of the most tumultuous times in our history, I might be rocking in my chair, never having written more than a grocery list. As it is, I divorced a good man, turned my back on the safety of a drama-free life, and struck out on my own.

Am I glad I did? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Some years were hard, but there’s always a price to pay for freedom. Rejecting stability isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me. Now I’m going to spend whatever time I have left writing short stories. Some of you will miss my “musings.” Others won’t even notice I’m gone because life is like that. What’s important to one person is insignificant to another.

A big “thank you” to Bud and the readers who took time to email or send a card. Your kind words were always appreciated. I enjoyed the time we spent together. Whether I brought a smile to your lips or a tear to your eye, I always wrote from my heart.

We’ve had a good run, but nothing lasts forever except our written words. I hope mine were the right ones. I’ll close with the words of Jimmy Durante, “I’ll be seeing you.”

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format. If you’ve enjoyed Sharon’s musings, her book Life in a Tin Can is available from Amazon. It’s full of amusing, poignant, and nostalgic stories.”