Saturday, December 24, 2005

“A Great Ride”

[[M I L E S T O N E S]] * There’s plenty of great reading matter in the January 2006 issue of Smithsonian magazine, including a feature about the first north-south railway line crossing Australia’s vast interior and an excerpt from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s monumental new Abraham Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals. But the most nostalgic and heartwarming piece of all might be a profile of Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, America’s “first baby boomer.” Born in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hospital just after midnight on January 1, 1946, Casey-Kirschling is about to celebrate her 60th birthday, her entry into her seventh decade of life soon to be followed by the same milestone for however many of the 76 million baby boomers born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 still survive.

It’s interesting to see how representative Casey-Kirschling has been of her larger-than-normal generation--a child of the cold war who once danced on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, went to college despite her mother’s own abbreviated education, married young, found herself conflicted about the Vietnam War and drug use during the 1960s, created a career for herself that was separate from her husband’s, and ultimately divorced, only to remarry some years later. Now living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with her second husband, Patrick, Casey-Kirschling tells Smithsonian that “she feels more politically liberal and more tolerant now than she did earlier in life, and she is unhappy about the current war. ‘What I don’t get is all the people who went from Woodstock to saying that it’s OK to go to war in Iraq,’ she says.” The magazine goes on to explain:
Like many boomers, Kathy continues to feel a restless need to make a larger contribution to the world around her. “I’m not going to just relax and be brain-dead,” she says. She worked with the Salvation Army after the Mississippi River floods in 1993 and spent two weeks last fall in Baton Rouge working with the Red Cross relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. “It was an unbelievable experience,” she says. “We were training hundreds of people to work as supervisors in the shelters.” Why did she do it? “I really feel that we baby boomers need to give back,” she says. “That was my way of saying I can do that.”

A lapsed jogger--“My knees gave out”--Kathy watches her cholesterol and tries to walk three or four miles a day. “My priority is to take care of Kathy so I can be more productive for people I care about,” she says. “My goal is to stay as healthy as I can before I die.” She and Patrick expect to spend much of that time on the 42-foot Grand Banks trawler they keep on the Chesapeake Bay. Its name?
First Boomer.
As one (somewhat younger) baby boomer to another: Happy Birthday, Kathy.

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