Oh my god, was I lucky / by Janis Miltenberger

Janis, Carol and Janet at MLK Jr, Junior High School, Berkeley, CA 1972, photo by Paula Shiu.

Janis, Carol and Janet at MLK Jr, Junior High School, Berkeley, CA 1972, photo by Paula Shiu.

When you are young everything shapes you, the people, the mood, the air and light. You assume as a child that this is real, and because it is real for you this is what everyone is experiencing. It was only later when I realized what unique alchemy occurred as a child growing up in Berkeley California.

Do you remember the music of the 60’s and early 70’s? The songs that resonated with me were about coming together, helping one another, and LOVE. I recall singing some popular songs at summer camp and feeling the lyrics move me to tears, “If I had a hammer” was one of those that still can make me well up. The culture that I understood revolved around the Golden Rule, equality and acceptance.

Janis, Kim, Audrey, Jane and Nancy as “The Haverettes” (church band), Berkeley High School, 1974. Photo Peter Smith

Janis, Kim, Audrey, Jane and Nancy as “The Haverettes” (church band), Berkeley High School, 1974. Photo Peter Smith

I spent years as a child drawing while listening to music, and it was in these fruitful times that I imagined my life and the creative people who would sustain me. The music was primarily The Beatles but also Aretha, Smokey, Sly, Stones and The Jackson Five.

I fell in love at 15. It was one of those lucky scenarios where childhood fantasies play out fulfilling your best hopes and dreams. He was a few years older and in a band. A group of creative, focused, super fun young men. I could expound on the band and my boyfriend, but what I mainly want to convey are the incredible ingredients, the richness of being surrounded by passionate people discovering their own voice and striving to be seen by the world at large.

Donn (“the one”), Jon, Tommy and Royce.

Donn (“the one”), Jon, Tommy and Royce.

There were times that I had to remind myself that my source of creativity was different. It takes focus to define oneself around such compelling people and eventually I had to pull away and attend to my own course.

I am still so grateful to my early creative friends who helped me create a template of the path forward.

At 19, photo by Ralph Granich.

At 19, photo by Ralph Granich.