When I was in high school in the very late 1960s and had learned the importance and blessing of being thankful, I would faithfully thank God each night He made me a girl.
We were in the thick of the Vietnam War, the military draft was a pervasive issue of our lives. And only boys – and maybe I should say “young men” – were eligible for the draft. Every young male I knew – classmates, brother, cousins, friends – was likely to be called to go fight. I hated the thought they should have to go, but I couldn’t change that or fix the situation.
Honestly, my being a female – and therefore ineligible to be drafted – was probably as good a thing for the military as it was for me. But I considered it a very personal blessing. One to this day I’m still thankful for, for far more reasons than my teenaged mind could fathom back then.
There have been times in my life I’ve been considered brave, or courageous. There have been periods when out of nowhere I found the resolve or ambition to do things that needed to be done and that I needed to do, but very little compares to what it would have taken for me to enlist and be sent overseas crawl in muck, carry a gun, parachute out of a plane or helicopter, kill or be killed.
In my 20s, when the political battle for the ultimately failed Equal Rights Amendment was being fought, I might have spouted a few of the concerns, but my life went relatively unaffected. I had a very good job and didn’t know or care what my male counterparts made. I made enough, I thought, to afford all that I needed and most things I wanted.
Oh goodness yes, I did perceive an imbalance by comparing my home, parent and job chores against my husband’s home, parent and job chores. But honestly (I’m sort of whispering here, now) I took on the heavier load because I was good at it. Ahem. Better than he was at least.
And he seemed to appreciate it. I count it as a whole other blessing that I had grown up in a family and community, and married into a family, where I was appreciated for who I was, which was person first, female second.
I remember, though, there was a common flash point over the question, “Would you want your daughter to go to war?” And my answer, as the mother of a baby boy, was always the same, “I don’t want my son to go to war.”
And then, in my 50s, my youngest son did go to war. He joined the Marines at a time when there was no draft, after our country had been attacked by terrorists flying planes into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon, and the powers that be determined we would need “boots on the ground” in Iraq to protect us and our freedom, and revenge our wrong.
It took more courage than I dreamed I had for him to go.
All that explanation aside, I let the “Day Without Women” pass with almost no acknowledgement from me. Well there’s this caveat. I volunteer as a Foster Grandparent five mornings a week at one of San Angelo’s Early Head Start Centers, and each afternoon, I spend two hours at a kindergarten “tutoring” children. Our volunteer force all wear red smocks to identify us. So I wore red, the prescribed color of the day.
But from the get-go I pondered the very notion of how there could be such a thing as a day or a moment (even) without women. We all have mothers for crying out loud. The truth is, I don’t want those I love and care about me to think they can get by without me doing what I do.
I want to be important and helpful, involved and participating. It’s nice – very, very nice – to be appreciated, but failure to show up and do what people are expecting you to do won’t earn appreciation or prove a point.
I am as thankful now to be a woman as I was then to be a girl. I’ll take the benefits and responsibilities of all that being a female entails. Even more so, so long as I can remember I am a human first. I will do what I can, appreciate the opportunity and pray there is worth and measure to be found in my efforts.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.