December 2010. Well, Baby Boomers, here we are at the cusp, having taking a long, long journey to get here. We're going to turn 65 next year. What?!
One of my favorite lines in literature comes from Billy Pilgrim's grandmother on her death bed. She beckons Billy Pilgrim to her side. He thinks she will have something profound so say--and so she does, but not in the way he wants. "How did I get to be so old?" Her tone is clearly plaintive.
How did I get to be so old? Today at lunch I mentioned that "my people" were going to turn 65 next year. "What do you mean by 'your people.'?" asked my great-niece, now 12 years old. And thus a little history lesson leaped forth from my head like Aphrodite abirth in the foam.
"America's men were at war as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. With the end of the war, men marched home by the thousands and thousands, meeting wives, finding wives, and making babies. Beginning in June 1946 those little bundles began the huge birth explosion, creating the largest baby boom in American history and finally ending in 1965.
Some of us were born in the first half of 1946, but in my graduation class of 1964, only a handful in comparison to that vast number of June-December-borns. My mother lived in San Diego, where my father was stationed in the Navy. As soon as she learned she was pregnant, she headed home to Shreveport, LA. My grandmother accompanied her to the doctor one day. The lady sitting next to her asked what was wrong with her little girl. "Why, she's eight months pregnant," my grandmother declared. My mother was tiny and had a tiny baby.
Thus, the beginning of the Baby Boom, changing statistics forever in American history: building schools, colleges. Then Vietnam came along, our war, our social conscious, our shame, our loss of victory. My mother, ever the patriot, urged my brother to go to Canada if his number was called. And his lot was next, but the end of the war, the photo showing Vietnamese hanging on the helicopter forever burnished in our memories. A war that caused generations to collide. A war that caused one set of Americans to spit on another. My brother never had to go.
And afterward, we documented our behavior. Perhaps the most all-inclusive movie about our generation is Tom Hanks' award winning Forest Gump.
Another disturbing movie of the time was , an anti-material things movie.
Tom Cruise shows the horror of coming home disfigured in , Born on the Fourth of July. Or, The Deer Hunter with damaged veterans.
Another movie showed the Boomer disdain for those age 30 and over (ha!). One book and movie (can't remember title) has those oldsters placed in compounds and safely out of the way, so they can rule the day. But every day ends and the leader turns 30 and faces his turn in the shade.
And "free love" and integration and civil rights. Bra burning, divorce, freedom, freedom, freedom, and then entrapment in that freedom. What did we do with that freedom? We changed the world. Yes, we really did. Remember the Beatles and the protest from adults they wrought? One thing leads to another. Drugs, mind-bending, overdosing, chemical fry-outs. Entrapment in the freedom.
But African Americans had the right they should have had all along: the right to a better and equal education. Women earned the right to be doctors, bankers, anything they wanted to be--and loaded with stress. Freedom.
This isn't where I meant to go when I started. I'm a Baby Boomer. I was a teacher. I made a difference and I'm about to retire from my librarian job--
When I turned 64 (am I really talking about myself who thought I would never grow old), I constantly sang that Beatles song to myself as consolation: "Will you still feed me, will you still need me when I'm 64?" Well, no is the answer. I'm no longer married and revel in that freedom but am sometimes overwhelmed in its entrapment of less income. Will I still feed me, will I still need me when I'm 65?
Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)
- *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- The Odd Women by George Gissing
- The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
- How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
- The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
- In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
- *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
- The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
- Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
- Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
- Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
- The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
- Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
- Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
- *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
- Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
- *Ruined by Paula Morris
- Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
- Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
- *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
- Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
- *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
- Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
- *The Giver by Lois Lowery
- *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski