Columns 2006

Thanksgiving thanks

It being Thanksgiving, I think it is appropriate to give thanks.  Since I use New Year’s as a time to count the people and things that most annoyed me throughout the past year, this is the best time to list the things for which I am most grateful.

Let me start by saying that although I may not agree with Sarah Palin on many issues, I am prouder than punch that Alaska not only has its first female governor, but has one who has shown she actually has a working moral compass.

Back in prehistory when I was young and burning my bra in a trashcan on the Atlantic City Boardwalk outside of the Miss America pageant, I thought that by the time I reached such an advanced age women would have no firsts left.  I thought my generation would knock those firsts out like dominoes set up to fall.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, life happened.  And life has a funny way of throwing the best laid plans off track.

So some of those women who burned their bras with me went out the next day and bought new ones and entered what I thought of as the world of our mothers. It was a world bounded by school and children and soccer practices.  They became the legendary soccer moms.  And thank god for them because they raised the generation that produced women like Sarah Palin, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Butcher, women who broke through glass ceilings like they were made of soap bubbles.

Some of those bra burning women went into the home to raise a family and came out energized to change the world.  And some never left the business world for a second. They became Secretaries of State, Supreme Court Justices and Martha Stewart. These women broke into the board rooms, church hierarchies and halls of government power, blazing a new trail with every step they took. Yet despite all that movement, each year brings another first for women because there are just that many firsts to be had.  I’m grateful that the firsts continue to pile up, that I’ve lived to see them and that the next generation of women will know that you can have it all even if they don’t want it all simultaneously. Because what women have hopefully learned over the past four decades is that you can go to school, raise a family and then get back into the workforce and still be successful.  Or you can never leave the workforce and still have a healthy family. Or you can concentrate on business and not have a traditional family and still have a fulfilling and healthy life.

I am immensely grateful that we have all those options now and that our children and grandchildren and every generation succeeding them will see less and less firsts as women become ubiquitous in all facets of life.

I am also extremely grateful this year to all those people who take their immense talents and skills and use them to support volunteer organizations all over this state, this country and this world.  This volunteer work is no longer the sole purview of “the women who lunch”.  Men and women together keep the doors open on charitable and civic organizations that feed and clothe the hungry, provide scholarships to students, offer shelter to abused and unwanted animals, give TLC to wild critters in need of some quiet time to heal and sit all day at polling places to make sure we get a chance to exercise the greatest right we can have in a democracy.

This Thanksgiving I will be sitting down to a meal with cousins who grew up to be some of my best friends. Their children will also be at that dinner table listening to us tell tales about their parents when they were young and bursting the pomposity of anyone who dares to pretend they have no skeletons in their past. When you dine with family, the skeletons dine with you.

I’m especially grateful that at least two people from my parents’ generation are still sharing that meal with us. The connection is so tenuous now that it has become all that more precious.

Mostly, I’m grateful that the world is looking a little kinder and gentler this year than it did last year.  As Martha would say, “That’s a good thing.”