Angela Bocage


Roe v. Wade anniversary

When I was at the end of seventh grade, I spent an amazing summer in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. A little over a year after my mother died in spring of sixth grade in Cammack Village, Arkansas, I’d spent seventh grade at George B. Dealey elementary after moving to Dallas to live with my father. There, where the seventh graders were royalty, the year passed in a whirlwind of getting a new turquoise stingray bike to ride to school and family errands and such, singing in the chorus, finally having some pretty clothes, racking up record-setting points in the reading competition, getting my period, being asked to do art for various teachers and getting to get out of all sorts of tedious activities to do so, getting crushes on both genders, having great friendships and adventures, including an awesome wilderness education week in Athens, Texas, I’ll never forget, and culminating in triumphs of both acting in the leading comedienne role and doing lots and lots of scenic and promotional and program art for the year’s play. It was such a blessing after all the excitement that that first summer after my world turned upside down I got to live in the peace and beauty of my grandmother’s shadow, her lovely old home (with the first air conditioning system ever built in Arkadelphia, a hundred years old, its mysteries housed in its own tiny cottage by the rear of the house, but working so wonderfully well!), the quiet genteel streets of a little town that believed passionately in learning and rang with church bells…but in which I’d not yet experienced the hateful side of religion. There was only kindness in the little Episcopal church we attended, a pioneer in integration, only the sunshine, its warmth bringing out the smells of candles, flowers, and old, old books. In the beautiful old fashioned public library, a hushed and cool retreat with polished wooden floors, high ceilings, and secret passages (my grandmother volunteered there as a part-time librarian so I was delighted to explore with impunity), I discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one huge dusty-black volume with thrillingly arcane sigils like a silvery-red eye and was flat out gone all summer into that road novel of all road novels; the landscape covered by the hobbits wasn’t, after all, all that unlike the gentle verdant hills and forests and rivers and towns of southern Arkansas. What made me think of all this today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I used a clunky old blue and white bicycle in Arkadelphia, not the sleek speedy one I had at home. If, riding around with my friends Anne and Sharon, or exploring some promising haunted house with my friend John for some vampire play we were writing, or just walking in the twilight to think about what I wanted to do with the life ahead of me, with art, learning, writing, exploring relationships, I’d happened on the wrong person, and been raped–it wasn’t quite 1972 yet. Would my two wonderful children have ever come into the world, would I have gotten an education, would I have been sent away, or would an unsterile back-alley procedure have ended my life? My nascent depression wasn’t treated then, and the treatments that existed were frequently as bad as the illness–would I have committed suicide, or spent my life in an institution? For some reason, even after all the years of thinking I’ve done about why women’s reproductive lives aren’t free, I never thought quite this way, never thought, this could have happened to me. Our mothers, our grandmothers, I always said. But it wasn’t quite 1972 yet the summer I discovered sexual feelings, the summer Anne and Sharon would tell me men and boys were always looking at my rather fine new breasts. This anniversary, I did the math, and I’m so thankful for my children and my life. We cannot deny the future to the girls in seventh grade, or second grade, or entering adulthood today. To think otherwise is female sexual slavery as surely as it has ever existed in the world.

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