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December 20, 2005 - Tuesday, 12:20 a.m.

Anyone was welcome...

It was the fall of 1965. We were living in a little town outside of Milwaukee. My father had gotten a job with Honeywell, in Minneapolis. (Honeywell. You know. It’s on almost every thermostat in every house. Every time I saw one of those round thermostats on the wall I thought, “My dad makes those!” Of course, he didn’t really. But it was something I could recognize.) My parents found a cute little
cape cod, on a quiet little street in Anoka, Minnesota. The street ran along the Mississippi River. The houses across the street, for the most part, were river front lots, long narrow lots that stretched down to the river far behind the houses that sat along the street. There was a vacant lot across the street from our house. It obviously belonged to one of the houses on one of the sides of it, as it had grass and was always mowed.

We didn’t realize it until years after we’d moved away, that along this street lived some of the wealthiest and most influential people in town. We arrived that fall. I remember running excitedly around the house. I was about 5 ½ and this house had not only a basement but an upstairs as well. We ran up and down the stairs and out into the yard as the movers unloaded the truck with all of our belongings in them. Every little nook and cranny had possibilities of hidden treasures. We were an inquisitive and boisterous bunch. I am sure the neighbors, as they peaked out their windows, were happy to see a cute little family moving in. My mother was only about 29, and she had an infant only a few months old, Lynn; a 3 year old, Camille, a 4 year old, Maureen and me at 5. I am sure my parents looked like an average couple with four daughters.

We settled in and life hit its pace I went to school in the morning and walked home each afternoon. My father, an engineer, left in the morning at about 6:30 am and arrived home each night just before 6 pm. I am sure we seemed quiet and normal. We only lived there for about 10 years, but I am sure that most of that neighborhood has never forgotten us.

My parents had become Bahá’ís about a year before we moved to Minnesota. They specifically picked Anoka, because no Bahá’ís lived there. Now, you have to realize that in the late 60’s and early 70’s, most of the youth (college students) were rebelling against their parents and looking for answers. During that decade large number of twenty-something college students became Bahá’ís. My parents had two priorities in their lives (and still have the same ones) family and the Faith. I am not sure at what point they took on that parent role on a large scale, but I know it had to be shortly after we moved there. Though my parents were only in their 30’s, they were from a completely different era then those 60’s kids. So many, already alienated from their parents, found surrogate parents in mine.

Where we lived was on the main artery through the state and anyone leaving the Cities and heading anywhere north came through Anoka, not very far from our house. Our home was constantly filled with a variety of people. People would show up and have dinner with us, take showers and sometime sleep on the couch. Now, this wasn’t like kids from the 4H club. I am talking about not only wildly dressed hippies, but lots of people of color. When we lived in Anoka there was virtually no one there but middle-class, middle-America white folks. I never recall even a word of prejudice, as no one in that town really dealt with minorities at all, so it was never mentioned.

There are a number of times I am sure our neighbors could barely believe their eyes. I recall once a bus load of Indians and hippies showed up, took showers and ate. I can’t imagine what they thought!! Another time we had a live band playing in our living room. An entirely black band, the music could be heard a block away. There was always a pot of coffee on and enough for another mouth to feed at dinner. The influx of people in our home was so great that for nearly ten years after we moved to Colorado whenever we sat down to the table for dinner it felt to me like someone was missing. I’d count and there was always the 7 of us, but still the feeling that SOMEone was missing was always there.

As our community grew, never really going much beyond 9 or 10 adult Bahá’ís, the majority were young college kids. Having found the Faith, they were moving away from drugs and alcohol and looking for an adult ear to listen. For the most part, that ear was my mother’s. She was home all day with just one or two kids around, not of school age yet, and people dropped by for a cup of coffee and a visit. The attitude of Bahá’ís is that everyone has an equal right to speak up and be heard. This just didn’t mean all the adults in our world, but it even meant kids. We were always treated with respect and our voice always heard. We knew that our thoughts would be listened to and respected. We knew we had value. Truly, to this day, all of us girls, though we respect authority of any sort, we all are non-pulsed by the power that a person wields. We are quick to speak up and expect that our input will be taken seriously. I’m personally am not awed by power. I don’t care if you are the CEO, the mayor or a person of position, I speak like my voice should be heard and that I have value. What an incredible gift that environment of the Faith gave us, especially as women.

My parents worked hard to keep from trying to mold us into a gender specific form. It was expected that we could do anything or become anything. We were equally allowed to do the female and male activities. I learned to sew, cook, and clean like most girls, but I also learned how to use tools and fix my car. It was expected that when we grew up we’d go to college. My parents were both the first in their families (and I am including their ancestors) to receive four year college degrees.

Though the schools us girls went to were always all white and mostly Scandinavian, our life was filled with a diverse group of people, lots of Persians, African Americans and Indians. I really didn’t realize that this was different from all my friends’ lives and really very different from the world my parents were raised in. They both grew up in rural North Dakota in the late thirties through most of the fifties.

When we moved to Colorado the vacuum was hard felt. The constant flow of people through our home was gone. I was fifteen years old and in those first few years I was terribly surprised to find that the world I’d lived in wasn’t like anyone else I knew. I missed the people; I missed sitting and listening to amazing conversations and being a part of a vibrant group of people.

My mother and father went back to visit some of our neighbors a few years ago. One lady had divorced and remarried, and when she introduced my parents to her new husband she said, “These are the people I was telling you about, anyone was welcome in their home.”

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