Free Love, Free Fall: Scenes from the West Coast Sixties
by Merimee Moffitt

ABQ Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-996-62144-1.
Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Posted on 06/25/2016
Review of the Month, July 2016

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: American Women in their Cultural/Historical Context

In the preface to Free Love, Free Fall: Scenes from the West Coast Sixties, author Merimee Moffitt writes, "In classrooms, I have encouraged students to express opinions and to realize that they are in charge of their own lives. I tell them...that their own stories are worthy material for poems and fiction and essays... Free Love is my speaking out, my finding of my voice, my living up to my own ideals and beliefs."

Though her stories start in 1964 (I was still in high school then), Moffitt takes me right back to the time when young people were striking out, rejecting their parents' traditional values and seeking freedom. We wanted to do life on our terms. We wanted to test the boundaries. We wanted to find true love rather than appropriate love. We thought we being original whenever we rebelled. Although rebellion is a universal theme, Moffitt's personal memories make her exploration unique.

Ms. Moffitt lost parental support when she dropped out of Reed College and fell into the role of "old lady" for one man after another. (I wanted to spend the Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury, 52 miles north of my parents' home. My parents said, "No." I knew if I went they would not pay for college. I was supposed to matriculate at Vassar in the fall, and I chose the conventional route over running away in search of my freedom. Vassar turned out not to be so conventional after all.)

Ms. Moffitt learned to make meals out of rice and beans, to make clothes from scratch, and meet her partner's needs instead of being conventional. I learned psychology and sociology and drama and opened my eyes to the liberal arts. Her needs came second, back in the day when women were often treated as second-class domestic servants. I put myself first, clinging to privileges she gave up.

She loved natural beauty and many of the people who came through her life. So did I. Whether she was at a party with Jerry Garcia or soaking up the sunsets in Taos, her self-awareness grew. So did mine.

Each highly-readable story in this collection takes us on a carefully crafted journey through the needs, wants, and issues of the time. Moffitt uses topical sensory details and product names to take us inside a less-complicated time. We watch her mature as the events wear on her soul and she begins to understand that her choices of men are less than ideal. Readers will see that she is on her way to something better before she realizes it herself.

Ms. Magazine put a crack in her concept of the world. It made her ready to move on. So did Judy Brady's satirical essay, "Why I Want a Wife." I first learned of that essay as a second-year high school English teacher in 1975. Though our paths were different, we fell under several similar influences. They empowered both of us.

Merimee Moffitt gives me a glimpse of the environments I missed in her first memoir, Free Love, Free Fall: Scenes from the West Coast Sixties. I chose a different route, but we both came into our own voices as we explored the world. Our similarities matter much more than our differences.

Merimee Moffitt had a career of teaching writing (and mathematics) in middle and high school and at CNM, a community college, She has also done workshops and public classes for years, including but not limited to SWWriters, Open Space classes, a Women of the World Slam Poetry workshop held in ABQ recently, classes at the Source, the NM Poetry Society, and various elementary and high schools. Her publications include local and national journals and reviews such as El Malpais, Mas Tequila Review, Fourth Genre, The Times They Were A'Changin anthology, Pemmican, Santa Fe Literary Review, NM Literary Review, and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago.

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