Green Valley :: Suzi
(Through the miracle of Google, Suzi found me this week, so it stirred up some scattered memories.)
I was born in an era of Susans. When I lived at Buck Brook, there were three of us in a small community of 10-15 adults. When it got confusing, a smartie proposed that discipline be applied: henceforth, we would have one "Sue," one " Suzi," and one "Susan."
I was Susan, formal and shy.
"Sue" was a hearty divorcee with three small children, ready to roll up her sleeves and try anything.
And then there was " Suzi." She probably wasn't more than a couple years older than me, but Suzi was an elder. She was competent, knowledgeable, and (being Canadian) cosmopolitan.
Identified with the early founders of Green Valley, her family was entangled with my future husband's past via the kind of scandal rampant in 1960s communes. No one really spoke of it in public. But every little community needs some skeletons in the closet, some history to whisper about on dark and stormy nights.
And yet there was no darkness in Suzi.
One of Suzi's jobs was organizing doctor's trips, which primarily meant gynecological visits back in a time when it was nobody's business that teenage girls had their own prescriptions for birth control pills and when New York was the only state where a legal abortion could be obtained. I haven't thought about this in so long... It was all so matter-of-fact back then. Parents sent their wild girls to GVS to get them straightened out and that often meant getting them on the right track sexually and reproductively, as discreetly as possible. It was Suzi who arranged my own very first gyn visit -- now there's a life milestone for you.
Like many of us, Suzi fell in love at Buck Brook. She fell for Zeff, another "elder" -- a fussy guy from Nebraska who was the kitchen steward -- ordering all the food and planning all the menus for the 35 or 40 people there. They got married. In those women's lib days, Suzi was the first woman I knew to hyphenated her last name with Zeff's and to then wrestle with the problem of how to refer to themselves as a couple. It came out "Susan HerName-HisName and Zeff," which I thought was hilarious.
As I recall, Suzi was the one person who didn't think Buck Brook existed on another planet. While I was holed up doing needlework and other staff were drinking and sharing drugs, Suzi was actually making friends with people in the surrounding farms and villages. And for a while she wrote a little "about the town" column for the local newspaper.
Is it possible that Suzi was actually an adult among the rest of us post-adolescents?
*Susan. From 1945 to 1968, Susan was consistently within the top 10 girl's names, according to the US Social Security Administration. It has sunk steadily ever since, to a dismal 565th in 2004.
Green Valley School was a residential program for troubled kids and a sixties-style commune for its staff. I arrived at Green Valley School in Orange City Florida in February 1971. Around May, Lee Ricketts and I drove 10 kids north to the Catskills to start our own little farm adjacent to GVS' Buck Brook Farm. I left the Green Valley family, with my future husband, in August of 1972.