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January 29, 2008

Generationally Speaking

MichelleWhen I was a kid, my best friend was Julie, and she lived across the street from me. She was one week younger than me, a fact I lorded over her even though she was a good 2-3 inches taller than I. Julie and I did everything together from about age 3 on. We sat together on the bus, she swam in our pool, and I spent hours laying on the floor of her family room watching "Match Game" or playing Barbies in her basement. During the months my grandmother was dying of cancer, I knew that if I ever came home from school and my mom wasn't there, it was because she was at the hospital and I was to go to Julie's house. Julie's phone number was the first one I learned after my own.

My mom tells a story about me at age 4 or so. She was getting dinner ready and the news was on. I overheard something about blacks and riots and people getting arrested and going to jail. I asked my mom if I knew any black people. She says she didn't know what to think. Either I was just dumb, or they had actually succeeded in raising a child blissfully unaware of racial differences. Julie, my first best friend, and her wonderful family, are black.

I was blissfully unaware of prejudice at that age. My family lived in what was, for the early 70's, a rare microcosm for the small, rural, middle class town we lived in. It was a cul de sac. We were white Catholics. On one side lived a Filipino-German couple, on the other WASP's, followed by Italians, more WASPS, a Jewish family, and then Julie's house. Everybody got along. I thought that was how the world was.

Every September they end one night of the evening news (NBC and Brian Williams at my house) with a list of what this years current crop of freshman have lived through. I searched around online and found this abbreviated list for the class of 2007.
xxxx
They were born after:
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
Ronald Reagan
The Cold War and the Berlin Wall
Getting tangled up in a long kitchen phone cord
Setting the record timer on your VCR
Michael Jackson and the moonwalk
Recording music off the radio
Desert Storm
Floppy disks
The Oklahoma City Bombing
The O.J. Simpson Trial
The internet

At 40, I can't even say those things happened when I was a kid. Most of those things happened during college, or even *gasp* AFTER college. So now I look at my kids and I think of what will be on their list someday. My kids were born after some of the most defining moments of my adulthood - September 11th, Seinfeld, the reign of Pope John Paul II, The Sopranos, The Clinton "Impeachment", Katrina. Reality TV, Princess Diana, Columbine, Y2K, and the '92 LA riots.
xxxxx
I haven't made up my mind yet about who I will vote for. There are too many months of debates, and spins to get through. And I will vote for who I believe the best person for the job is, regardless of party, gender or race. But it brings me great joy to think that there is a very good chance that my kids will never know a time when only old white guys get to be president.
Michele can also be found at  I Got Two, Babe

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