12/23/2012 12:24 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2013

I Grew Up a Prepper

Preppers, are they normal?

I grew up in a prepper community. We had huge stockpiles of food, honey, and firewood. We raised our own food, slaughtered our own animals; we had hunting rifles. We were cut off from the outside world. Although we had electricity, we could live without it. In fact, when it went out, we survived just fine. This was in Southern New Hampshire in a cult that my mother had joined in the early late Sixties. For fifteen years of my early life, I studied survival in preparation for the fall of the country and the coming Tribulation.

How much preparation for the future is "normal?" What does it mean to be "normal?"

When Kinsey first started publishing the History of Sexuality for men and later for women, the idea of what "normal," is began to expand. People wonder if they have a normal marriage, a normal sex life and of course a normal family. My kids argued that we never had a "normal family," but that's because they have particular ideas of what normalcy entailed. I've been with my second husband since 1994, nearly twenty years now. My first husband is part of our family and never failed to attend family functions--maybe that's a sign of Abby-Normal right there. Americans are supposed to hate their exes.

We went camping in the summer and later when we weren't quite as hard up, started going to Hawaii every other year. They did sports, had friends, went to parties. What made them think the family wasn't "normal?" There were signs of abnormality--the Chess and Scrabble instead of X-Box or TV. No TV and video games; that's pretty strange right there. There are thousands of books, but when they grew up, there was hardly any furniture. We chose to live in a creative world of ideas instead of things. We like to think. We like to be awake and engaged. For Americans, that's abnormal.

In the wake of the Connecticut shooting, preppers are receiving special attention. Prepping has its stages. We are, by definition, like many people who live in earthquake country--stage one preppers. We have first aid kits, water, food and duct tape. If there were an earthquake, we could last for several days without killing our chickens let alone the cats or dogs or turning to what they all do in apocalyptic movies--fighting off zombie attacks.

Stage two preppers are like Nancy Lanza. They have a gun collection for the purpose of fighting off attackers. Lanza's weapons were not hunting rifles. Stage two preppers tend to think of their house as a potential fortress. Stage two preppers are preparing for the collapse of civilization as we know it rather than a local natural disaster. They are prepared for the United States to experience economic collapse which would precipitate, for preppers, a need to shoot others, a need to raise their own food. Many of them are religious and believe in some kind of Armageddon scenario.

Stage three is what T.C. Boyle wrote about in that great story "The Long Haul," the preppers who actually move to or have an alternate home in Montana or Canada where they could "live off the land," and "fight off the bad guys," with their arsenal of weapons. They often have a large supply of fuel, a generator, short wave radio, seeds for planting, fruit trees, fences and dangerous dogs. They could survive indefinitely. They may even have a helicopter or plane lined up to take them out of the city to the safety of their retreat.

Let's face it, the entire American government is into prepping. When 9/11 happened, the president and vice president were whisked away to separate prepper sites which had--presumably--their favorite foods, drinks, movies, popcorn and version of Monopoly or other games.

When it comes to the problem with Adam Lanza, I see parenting as the problem. Parents need to be present with their kids while they live at home and after they move out. Real relationships require being in someone's presence, seeing them, hearing them, doing things with them. And when you're in the presence of your family members, you need to be aware, awake and engaged. The prepper community should not be targeted, but clearly, we need gun control. The NRA argues that we need guns in schools. This country needs fewer guns, fewer bullets and more attention to parenting.