Every few years since 1969, we are reminded that it has been X years since the Woodstock rock festival. This time, the year number is 40. Yup, been 40 years now since then, peace n’ love n’ mud n’ Jimi n’ all. Eeyup. 40. I know. I remember.

I was 7 years old that August, no doubt savoring the last few weeks of my summer vacation in my hot, sticky, mosquito-laden Wisconsin backyard. The Summer of Love had long passed, along with Merseybeat, Flower Power, Peter Pan collars, and Gidget. Like some Twain-ish character, I would lie on my back in the grass, chewing on a blade or two, and stare at the puffy clouds as they drifted by and changed shape across the blue of the sky. Everything seemed to be changing. I had a growing awareness that beyond my backyard was a world that often seemed incomprehensibly strange. The ‘60s were coming to an end, and I wondered sometimes to myself if everything else would, too.

In that August alone, there was Woodstock, the Brits into Northern Ireland, Hurricane Camille, and the Manson Family murders, not to mention the ongoing bloody Vietnam War. I include Woodstock in that list not only because it was a major world news event, but that it wasn’t reported all that positively at the time. The newspapers and TV generally called it a hippie-filled, draft-dodger-friendly cacophonous mudpit of spoiled youth. It wasn’t at all celebrating the coming together of a generation or marveling at some of the ‘60s biggest musical talents. Oh, no.

I was fascinated by what I saw and read of Woodstock, and the mixed feelings I had towards it. I wanted so much to be older and be there! I loved the music and the craziness of all those people sitting in one place. It also scared me, the dirtiness and the drugs and the looseness, the drained look to most of the people. I was not a cool sophisticated kid, after all – if I had been there I would have been crying for my mommy within an hour.

I thought, aimlessly looking for patterns in the clouds, were these Woodstock kids the same hippies that killed those people in California, murdered that beautiful girl and her baby inside her? Could people really do that? How could anyone do that?

And if I look at the news right this very minute, I can read that Squeaky Fromme was let out of prison today, August 14, 2009.

Ah, but my August 1969 was not entirely spent trying to cope with disturbing realities that any 7-year-old could not possibly process, or any 47-year-old for that matter. After awhile, I would get up, spit out the chewed grass blades, and maybe go find a neighbor kid to play with or arrange my dolls into a soap opera drama or pet a cow over the backyard fence. And maybe I would listen to WOKY on my radio to a perfect new pop song that made everything seem right again, even if just for 2 minutes, 37 seconds.