Marches and milestones

A dog expresses its owner's opinion via a well placed sign. — Lorraine Parish

The author plans to attend one of the Jan. 21 Million Women Marches. The MVTimes reports in this issue on Vineyarders who will be marching (pg. A7).

On Monday, Dec. 19, I was turning 65 — 65! This day, being the biggest milestone in my life so far, deserved something special, something out of the ordinary, something I would remember years from now, and I hadn’t a clue as to what that something could be. Hell, I couldn’t do anything expensive like go to Paris at the last minute, but I was not going to let this day just slip by. This milestone represented the beginning of the last chapter of my life, and if I have anything to do with it, it’s going to be a doozy. This final chapter I write before I ride out of Dodge is going to be productive, it’s going to be interesting, and as long as I have a modicum of good health, it may be my best, so what to do … what to do? Within minutes an email popped up: “You Can Stop Trump on Dec. 19; March at Your Statehouse.”

Perfect, absolutely perfect — happy birthday, Lorraine! I booked a nonrefundable room near the Boston Commons; I was not going to change my mind. But it was not the money I was afraid of losing, it was the experience, whatever that might be.

When I was 19, living in Manhattan and beginning my dance career, I had the opportunity to attend the May Day peace marches in Washington, D.C. So not only was I quenching my desire at the time to become the greatest jazz dancer who had ever lived, I was also fanning the flames of becoming the biggest hippie who had ever lived. I was leaving that green but courageous girl from Alabama behind in the dust at the speed of a New York minute, and I was going to my first demonstration. Yippee!

I went, I conquered, I was thrown in jail, but I was in love. I was in love not only with the peace movement, I was in love with our constitutional right to peacefully assemble, but to be honest here, I also found I secretly harbored the urge to incite riots (not that I ever did, by the way), and for many years after that experience, I thought, “Thank the Lord I was born in this country and not Russia, where I would be locked up and the key would be thrown away!”

Passion has always run high for me, and I sincerely believe to this day all those marches, all those demonstrations truly were effective. We hippies did have the knack for showing up. I mean, you name it and there would be thousands of us there — we had to go. I know we definitely helped end the Vietnam War, and I was there in all my hippiedom glory to see it!

On Sunday, Dec. 18, I left for Boston, for my May-December romance, my 19-year-old self meeting up with my current Medicare self. I’ve learned that most romances end in disappointment, so as a result, I had no expectations — this adventure would simply be whatever I made of it. How did I ever become such a rational person — oh right, I was about to turn 65. I guess I have been paying attention all these years.

Monday morning, as I got nearer to the Statehouse, there was barely anyone walking on the Common, much less the crowds I had hoped for. Oh no, my fears were coming true, we’ve thrown a protest party and no one’s showing up! Then at the top of the hill in front of the Statehouse, I see all these little signs bobbing up and down — thank God people are here, and they are my kind of people! Then I started looking for all the gray hairs, a hard thing to detect when it’s freezing and most people are wearing hats. But you know what, there were a lot of older folks, it was truly a mix of ages and sexes. There were probably 500 of us, and considering it was a Monday morning, that number wasn’t so bad. I was just glad to be there.

What this particular march and protest would do for me is not relevant. This coming together with strangers on a cold day in December was about waking up. This day was about facing the fact that we, those of us who have similar values and beliefs, have got to get off our duffs and get active in any way each of us can. It was a warmup to all the protests that will be taking place all over the country in the years to come; we can’t lose momentum now, it’s got to build. The saying “safety in numbers” is very true.

The following Monday night, when I got home from Boston, I had an impromptu birthday dinner with a few friends. The most poignant viewpoint we had that night, in my opinion, was this: Politicians actually don’t change things all that much; where change truly takes place is in our own private lives, in our own personal encounters and our relationship to every living thing, including our big ol’ beautiful planet. At 19, I wanted to change the world, and now I know the way to do it, for me, is to incrementally change small things in my life on a daily basis: Be patient, Lorraine, with that slow-as-molasses person in line in front of you, be big and let that poor driver who needs to pull out do so. It all adds up, and you know what, there’s not a politician in this country who can stop me from doing the things I feel are right. So take that, Donald Trump!

Lorraine Parish is a longtime Vineyard clothing designer, and lives in Vineyard Haven.