Friday, August 5, 2011

Teenage Dropout Author, 33 Years Later

"After oxygen and carbon, humans are made up of stories." -- Paige Williams

Dolly Freed has done it her way.

She and her family were as typical as possible, living in a suburb of Philadelphia: Dad (an electronics technician), Mom (with a successful candle business), Dolly and her younger brother. Then things got unconventional. Father Frank joined his wife in the candle business as a way out of working all day for someone else, but she wanted bigger and better things and he just wanted to be his own boss and not work away from home all day.
So she left with the younger sibling, and teenage Dolly and Frank, being of similar dispositions, decided to follow their inclinations to be what they wanted to be: lazy, proud and honest. Not on a rural commune or in an ideological community, though; they just kept up the middle class facade and stayed clear of the law (Dolly was a truant -- and her name is a pseudonym adopted to keep her real identity anonymous. It still is.)
For several years, they did just that and lived well without jobs and almost no money (they earned less or more than $1000 a year at odd jobs). Their neighbor had five children to feed and Dolly wondered why he cut the large back yard of grass rather than growing food. With their garden, as well as fishing, rabbits and chickens, had more than they needed. Dispensing with school after the seventh grade, the surprisingly articulate and competent 18-year-old wrote and published her book about their adventure in suburban sustainability in 1978, Possum Living. I remember reading a book by a middle-aged woman doing the same thing in suburban Philadelphia; I wonder if they ever heard of each other.
When the desire to re-start her education struck, Dolly put herself through college and eventually became an engineer for NASA. If this were a Lifetime movie, you wouldn't believe it for a minute.
Now living in Texas, she's gone halfway back to her roots, making a small living as an environmental educator and following the low-impact lifestyle again. Her book was reissued last year, and there is a 10-minute film on YouTube made after it was first published. She says,
"possum living taught me that you need very few physical things to be happy."
Another feisty female story. I love 'em!

1 comment:

  1. I had to watch the video to understand. It is all about living your life with the independence you can create. "Puppywoods" is that, without having to destroy any critters, but having he ability to maintain from years of working for someone else.