Introduction: What was the Summer of ’79?
The summer of ’69 was a really pivotal time in the life of Elin Hilderbrand. She was nine years old and she lived with her family on Nantucket for most of that time. Those lazy, breezy days had a huge effect on not just Hilderbrand, but also on the entire fabric of the island. In fact, it changed the way Nantucket is run today. While the summers of ’69 and ’79 are similar in that they both involved a lot of leisurely time on the beach and sunbathing, they are very different in many other ways. In detailing the differences, Hilderbrand has created an engaging story with a distinctive voice. The setting is what really made this whole story come alive for me. I’m a New England girl, and even though I haven’t lived there forever, my ancestors lived along the coast for several generations before heading inland to upstate New York. I grew up with the history of the Revolutionary War and seafaring through my family members. So for me, the atmosphere was always very real.
How do you think your life would have changed if you had lived in 1979?
The summer of ’79 would have affected Hilderbrand’s life in a number of different ways. First, if she had been living on the island in 1979, she would not have been able to go back to live in New York City. Nantucket is only accessible by boat and plane. There were no bridges over to the mainland at that time. Furthermore, her career would be very different if she had written the book in that year. She would have been able to go to New York and attend Columbia and Writing programs. In addition, she would have been able to begin writing the book that year and would already have some of the first chapters done.
Second, although Hilderbrand is Nantucketer by birth, she has a unique way of looking at things. She is not just interested in the beautiful aspect of Nantucket. She has special interest in the history of Nantucket as well. This is one of the reason’s she chose the year that she did.
Third, Hilderbrand grew up with a love for literature, but did not begin writing until well into adulthood. She loved to read, but would never have thought that she wanted to write books for a living. Also, if she had been sixteen in 1979 and writing a book at that time, her title would have been very different. She may have chosen another title such as “Skinny” or “Nantucket Beauty”.
The Paths that Annoying People Follow
If the summer of ’69 had been any other summer, Hilderbrand would have found many more opportunities to annoy people. However, it wasn’t any other summer. The summer of ’69 was the last great Summer of Love in Nantucket. A lot of hippie types had been visiting the island for years before that, but once Hilderbrand was old enough to be a target for them she suddenly became a target in an entirely different way. She had a very broad nose and frizzy, brown hair which makes her look very much like a hippie. In fact, the way she carries herself and the way that she looks made it impossible for her to be anything other than what people perceived her to be. It’s as if she was an inanimate object that was always walking around. She loved nothing more than to walk along the beach with a book, stopping to read a poem or to watch a sunset. The fact that she’s smart enough to know that people don’t really like her doesn’t really matter.
Summer of Love ended. Summer of Crime began. Summer of Hilderbrand began. She was still a teenager, and she hadn’t quite got a grip of who she was or what she wanted from life. She had a lot of interests and skills, but not any that could be considered practical in the real world. For the most part, her surroundings only ever knew her as “that hippie girl.” Mostly they regarded her as harmless, but occasionally there’d be something to bother them. She’d point out that they were on the wrong trail of some wild animal and encourage them to keep on searching elsewhere. When she’d been out in the woods just sitting and reading, she’d hear her name called out from some distance away. It was usually in a tone that suggested that there was something wrong with her. She could never quite recall anything that could constitute an actual offense in those years, but still the annoyances came and went.
Seeing Things in a New Light
The summer of ’79 was more relaxing than the summer of ’69. While they both featured a lot of time spent relaxing on the beach, there were a lot more distractions in 1979. The radio was always playing either the latest hits or Beach Boys hits and no one seemed to mind at all. People also felt free to walk around naked, even if they weren’t on their own houses. It was actually considered impolite to wear clothes if they weren’t appropriate to the weather. In addition to not worrying about the weather being too hot or too cold, there were people who also didn’t mind being exposed to others. The late-afternoon sun highlighted their tanned skin and it was all in good fun. It was social nudity, with none of the sexualization that would come later; when sexuality would become the focal point and everything else, including health benefits, would be ignored.
There were no young children running around the beach; there weren’t any young children on the island at all. The beach was actually being used as a playground for children and adults alike. Most of the adults were sitting or lying on the sand, but there were also many children running around, shouting, laughing and diving into the water. It seemed that even though summer vacation only lasted a few weeks, it’s memory would likely last forever.
The Importance of the Summer of ’79 – and Why it Doesn’t Matter Which Year You Live In for Your Life to be Fulfilling and Rewarding Nowadays.
It’s kind of ironic that Hilderbrand would choose to focus on the summer of ’79, because in many ways it was the summer of ’69 that had a greater overall impact on her life. However, she was actually born in 1959, so she grew up in a very different Nantucket than the one that existed when the hippies were occupying the island. When Hilderbrand was a kid, Nantucket was heavily populated by families devoted to their children and their traditions. The drug culture didn’t really take off until the early 1980s and even then it was very mild. The biggest crime that happened on Nantucket at that time involved a woman who killed her husband with a baseball bat, and not drugs.
In the end, Hilderbrand is right that it doesn’t matter whether or not you happened to live during the summer of ’69 or the summer of ’79 because life is about more than just living in certain time periods. The nostalgia for a certain time period that many people have is misplaced because it fails to acknowledge just how much times have changed.