Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I Never Thought of it as History

In most everyone's life there are moments/events that are recognizable has historical at the time they happen and then there are many other events that are newsworthy but do not necessarily feel like "history in the making" at the time. This realization came to me as I watched the funeral services for President Gerald R. Ford today.

As the funeral motorcades made their way around Washington DC and Grand Rapids, Michigan today the TV news reporters and anchors had a lot of time to fill talking about the late President Ford. The topic most frequently mentioned was the circumstances that brought Gerald Ford to the office of President of the United States, namely the resignation of President Nixon following the Watergate Scandal. Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as President of the United States in 1974. When that date was mentioned, it really resonated with me. It hit me that I had lived through a significant historical event without realizing its significance at the time.

On June 12, 1974 I graduated from high school, full of excitement and hopeful about the future in spite of the fact that the country's economy was in the deepest recession in 40 years. The U.S.'s military involvement in the Vietnam War had just ended, gas prices were sky high due to the Arab oil embargo, abortion had just been legalized due to Roe vs Wade, and bell bottom pants, platform shoes, mood rings, and smiley faces were all the rage. I was coming of age.

That summer, August 12, 1974 to be exact, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States and Gerald R. Ford was sworn in the next day. Less than a month later, I, raised as a good Catholic girl in a very conservative community, moved into East Quadrangle (dorm) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor... a co-ed dorm, not co-ed by floor but room by room... with co-ed bathrooms! Talk about rocking my world! But the biggest rock to my world was yet to come. October 18, 1974, my father died. Sixteen days later, I would turn 18 years old. I was very young and impressionable.

1974 was a year filled with beginnings (beginning college, beginning life as an adult) and endings (the end of my high school years and childhood innocence, the end of my father's life) for me, including the ending of one Presidency and the beginning of another. But it wasn't until today that I realized I'd lived through a very important historical time. Until today, history for me amounted to stories my mom and aunts and uncles told about living through the Great Depression and World War II. It was something I heard about or read about. It happened to others, not to me. The significance of the political events of 1974 were lost to me in the course of the personal events that profoundly effected me that year. It never occurred to me that I was living history in the making. I never thought of it as history. It was just my life.