Guest Post by Chloe Koffas, Light From A Pixel
Editor’s Notes: One of the longest-running Gen X blogs shares the title of this post. Check out Harvest Gold Memories. The photos in this post feature neither the guest blogger nor the editor, they do, however, represent the life and times of several Gen-Xers who grew up during the period about which the blogger writes. All photos are the property of JenX67.com. Please provide a backlink to this site if you re-post them on your blog or website. Thank you.
On some unknown day in the 1970’s, a large truck got into an intense accident on a freeway somewhere in America. It may have happened on a busy highway near the gray skyscrapers of a big city, or possibly between a couple of small towns on an interstate near some farmland. From what I understand, the impact of the wreck caused the doors on the back of the truck to swing open, and large amounts of rough-textured yarn intended to someday become carpet in the homes of happy families came spilling out like an avalanche across the road.
My Family (Back When It Was A Family)
It’s a story I heard intermittently when I was growing up as adults drank coffee or mixed drinks on our couch. Because of some logistical business or insurance issue, the carpet company was not allowed to keep those thick textile threads that had once been stacked neatly in cardboard boxes, maybe because it had all been run over by oncoming cars that couldn’t stop in time to avoid the earth-toned chromatics of 1970’s décor that had strangely overflowed over the road. Or maybe because it had been raining and it all got wet. I guess all of it was given away or sold at a low price, and I think it was the sister of a neighbor who got some and knitted a bunch of 1970’s Afghan-style blankets. My family of origin, back when it was a family, got one of those blankets as a gift from our neighbor. It was harvest gold, primarily. It had some avocado green in it, and one other color at least, maybe maroon. It was a bunch of squares with a plus sign inside each one, all attached to each other and the fringe on the ends was just long, golden pieces of what was originally intended to be shag carpet.
Divorce and DNA
When my parents divorced in the early ‘80s, my mother kept it, and while it began to look more and more outdated as the years went by, it was a mainstay scratchy throw blanket that usually laid over the back of some couch in our house as we moved from one place to another. Every first-marriage-earth-toned-70’s item that my mother kept in her house in her new marriage, or that my father kept in his house with his new wife in another state, was a painful reminder to me of a time that no longer existed. It was a reminder that the two halves that had made me whole became broken. It felt as if my DNA had been given away with all their 1970’s no-longer-wanted domestic items donated in cardboard boxes at the neighborhood Goodwill as the divorce took its course. So many memories of that rich gold, like bending wheat in the sun, so much of that dark maroon, like the end of a dissipated sunset, and so much of that unmistakable, heavy, avocado-green in those years resided everywhere in our house. Their wedding china was white like my mother’s first wedding dress, and edged with a soft, light avocado green, as if to ethereally, or at least more gently, represent an era that was not so gentle.
Harvest Gold Blanket
In my teenage years, there were nights of trying to not think about my problems by watching mindless TV, and I’d wrap that harvest gold blanket around myself as I’d feel a draft come through the living room, but it didn’t feel like a blanket. It never did. When I had been a sick child, it was achingly clear it wasn’t designed for the red, fevered cheek of a little girl’s face to lie down on it. I would surrender to the rough scratch of it against my skin, as if it was designed to cause me pain and I was supposed to accept that without any questions. Maybe all the chemicals that were used to create the earth-tones of the blanket came out in the first few washes, or maybe not.
What I know is that the fabric of the society in which I was born was not designed for me in my youth, because it was not designed for a child. And those earth-tone colors sometimes give me comfort when I see them now in random older houses because of their familiarity, but sometimes they haunt me. Sort of like the sorrow that often floated from one end of our house to the other as my parents’ marriage began to dissolve when I was just a toddler. In those days, I wondered if pain itself was harvest gold, and rough like the pieces of yarn edging dangling tangled and tired from that abrasive blanket. These rough, relentless threads of gold were intended to be woven by some steel factory machine, it had been spun to go under people’s feet, to be trampled on until it looked so worn, or so dirty, or so out of style that it would be replaced.
The Fabric and Fiber of the Years
Like each of those squares were sewn together and connected, as we feel sorrow or even anger toward the fabric and fiber of the years we were born into, our story connects us to each other. Those rough fibers are what formed the fabric of society in the youngest, most tender years of my generation. They are what made some of us hardened, and some of us wise, but those ruthless, hostile cords left their mark on all of us in some way or another. Many Xers who grew up in good homes married someone who did not, and that history affected their marriages, causing anything from strain to mistrust, or even to a divorce of their own. So much forgiven, so much not forgotten.
Many of us are only able to tell our stories one thread at a time. I have been working for several years to unravel my story, and as of lately, those threads seem to be coming untangled just a little more. Some days it all weights heavy on me, and other days I feel this hope when I realize I experience a little less grief than I used to. What we can see now, in midlife, that we could not have seen before, is that the same threads that run through the patches on the blanket, run through mine.
From the things that my friends tell me about their darkest hours, I think one of the greatest lies Generation X believed is that we were alone in what we went through. It’s probably still one of the greatest lies we believe. We are not alone. We are connected because of coming into the world at the same time, and experiencing history through the same lens. When your heart aches, my heart feels pain in the same places as yours. On those days when you feel especially broken, the Xer standing across from you on the commuter train probably does too. When I think back to the early years of Gen X, and to my early years, there are so many harvest gold memories. The same threads, and the same colors that run through my life run through yours, even if the pattern was slightly different. As a generation, our threads are connected, we are connected, we are not alone.