Tuesday, May 1, 2018


This week I’ll be meeting up with women from across the country as well as Canada, Europe, and South America because my husband, like the husbands of these women, is active in the Maritime Law Association. The association has a meeting in New York City every year during the first week in May.  There are also meetings all over the country in the fall usually at port cities. We’ve met in Mobile, Alabama and a resort near Long Beach, California.  Over the years we’ve also been to Baltimore, New Orleans, Portland (Oregon and Maine), Boston, Hawaii and Charleston.

The meetings never disappoint, because of the women I’ve met. The real meat and fun of the conferences for me is getting together with the other wives and significant others, talking and sharing.  We probably run the gamut of political affiliations--and these days, politics is a topic filled with landmines, but that's not what we talk about or how we relate.  Our conversations are more about our lives and how we cope with what we have to do.  Some of us are grandmothers, some have weddings coming up and some have ailing parents, but in this group, maybe because none of us are in each other's lives otherwise, we can talk honestly about the difficulties each of these stages brings and the joys and the pains. No one is in competition and no one is judging.

What happens at these meetings reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman I met on vacation last year.  She was my age, in college during the time when boyfriends and male classmates were trying to figure out what to do about Viet Nam and their military obligation because of the draft. For those who weren’t around then or were too young to feel its impact, the draft, regardless of one’s politics, defined the young adulthoods of all the males who were eligible in the mid to late sixties.  The prospect of going to Viet Nam was just about certain unless one got a deferment. 

Regardless of how stressful that time was, it was an experience shared by the entire country. To this day, Viet Nam, and how one handled it, is a subject that those of us who were of age at that time slide into discussing. Talking about the divisiveness in the country now, this woman said, the problem in this country is that we don't know each other anymore.  If there was a draft, if we had to spend time with people from different backgrounds, we might get to know each other better, find common ground, and come up with solutions to our problems. Instead, we just see what divides us.

That may be what’s the best part of my experience with the women in the MLA. Although we come from a variety of religious affiliations and, in spite of our politics, we always manage to find common interests and beliefs and have genuine conversations.  If only that same experience could extend beyond groups such as mine into the national level.

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