Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Generation Gap

I have a friend who will be 93 on Valentines Day. Lois is a retired teacher. She began her teaching career in a one room school house. She is a tiny white haired little old lady now, but her mind is clear as a bell.
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I like to go visit Lois. Usually, I get there about lunch time so that I can take her a piece of Hershey pie from Burger King. I've never tasted that pie, but she tells me it's excellent. I figure that I do not need to find one more dessert that I really, really like.
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Anyways, Lois sits at a table with three other women. They range from 92 to....well, she doesn't quite remember, but she sure that it's very old. The interesting thing about these ladies is that they all have their marbles, every one of them. They can recount the most fascinating stories. I could listen to them talk all day. Sometimes I do. We're the only ones left in the dining room, and we're talking like there's no tomorrow. Literally.
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How the world has changed! Thank God. They matter of factly tell of a time that women had four options. They could become housewives and mothers. They could become teachers, nurses, or secretaries. As Lois tells: "I had not met anyone that I wanted to marry. I could not stand the sight of blood. My mother and father could not stand the thought that I might have a boss who wanted me to sit on his lap while I took dictation. So I had to become a teacher." And around the table, white heads nod. This was their world.
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I'm in a play. It is my stage debut. It is called "Equality of Rights". It is about the first American women's rights meeting back in 1848.
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When I was in high school, the girls were not permitted to wear slacks to school. Girls took home ec. Boys took woodshop. Never the twain shall meet. There was a lot of emphasis on being lady like. I was smart. I just expected to go to college. My parents thought that it was a waste for a woman to be educated because "they just get married and stay home to raise their children." My aunts spoke of regret of turning 30 because they had to cut their hair short. I remember how a woman was publicly humiliated in the work place for insisting on her right to work in the 'men only' computer room. God help you if you wondered aloud "Why?" or "But what if..." I remember years later, driving home on leave from the Army. I sat at the table in my army fatigues visiting with my family. I said something that caused my dad's eyebrows to go up. In amazement he said, "OH MY GOD! Don't tell me you've become a G-D feminist." I wiggled my toes in my Army boots. I knew what answer he wanted. I looked back at him, my eyes mirroring the same amazement I saw in his. "Jeepers, Dad, what the f*** do YOU think?" (God still had a mighty work to do in me...I was yet an atheist.) My father was so sickened at the thought that he had to leave the table. My mother looked at me reproachfully.
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I'm the mother of Cara. 18 years old. She speaks her own mind. She will do what she thinks is right. She chose her own path, and will leave this fall to go to college. She wants to be a history teacher. The little old ladies at the nursing home are pleased when she tells them this. They couldn't stand the thought that such a pretty, lively girl might have to sit on have to sit on her boss's lap to take dictation. They are glad she is not going to be a secretary. Cara has no idea what they're talking about.
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I'm glad.

1 comment:

PaintedPromise said...

We've come a long way, baby!