WHOSE HAND should I feel (while reaching unobtrusively for some cookies yesterday morning at a Large Gathering) but that of Bella Abzug. She was unobtrusively getting cookies, too.
Bella, a mover and shaker in the women's rights movement, had delivered opening and closing remarks in ceremonies at the National Museum of History and Technology.
There Brooke Hindle, the museum director, was entrusted (on behalf of posterity forever) with the great copper and brass torch that was borne flaming from Seneca Falls to Houston at the National Women's Conference last fall. Also two gavels (Bell broke one, I was told, banging for order at Houston, so both it and its replacement aren now among the national treasures), backdrop banner, buttons, badges, etc.
But the ceremonies were not so brief as I thought they would be. A number of people spoke, including Judy Carter, the president's daughter-in-law, who was described as a tireless worker for the Equal Rights Amendment and a sort of ambassador from the White House to women.
Seneca Falls, N.Y., is where the first American convention on women's rights occured in 1848, and Judy Carter said the historic site is now a laundromat, "and that is important."
Not only important, but probably clean. She said more women use laundromats than men.
Somewhere there is a thread, but I often lose the point of arguments and in the long run the world goes on anyway. They showed slides of the great women's convention in Houston last year - and one fellow had a big protest placard saying Women's Lip and, in tactlessly large letters, REPENT.
But the day is past, I think, when women's movements can be dismissed as some passing tremor of the Daughters of Hopscotch, and I was glad to notice that some of them can drone on as well as the Senate itself.
Bella Abzug has a superb sense of drama. Her closing remarks were perhaps four sentences. She introduced a baby (Era Levi McCarthey of Phoenix) who was a mere labor pain at Houston and is now a real beauty, contentedly chewing her dress through the proceedings, but said the true baby - the true future - is the ERA.
"And now we go forward," she thundered (and I for one was ready to man the barricades) "to, what is it? Tea and cookies? Sisters, we do not escape the past."
Much laughter. Tea and cookies are part of the past I hope women never turn their backs on. So I felt fine, really fine, when the first hand with mine in the cookie plate was Bella's.
We all love those weeks - how rare they are - when we do not work very hard, but sort of mull and chew on the passing scene. Often one feels like the wildebeest of Kenya, taking no thought for the morrow, but enjoying sunset at the water hole with all the wildebeest.
One of the most exciting menus of the year is 12 or 14 kinds of chili served at the Congressional Club during the solemn annual competition for "outstanding chili" cooked by members of Congress. I found Sen. Barry Goldwater's (R-Ariz.) offering good."A good chili, but it is a great chili?" I asked. No. Did not win.
I only ate five kinds of chili myself. The winning caldron was stirred up by Rep. Harold "Bizz" Johnson (D-Calif.).
Judges were notable ambassadors - from Iran, Organization of American States, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Netherland.
If you quietly went upstairs during the juding (very like entering the Forbidden City) you could see the ambassadors in their solemn rite. In between samples of the various chilis they were supposed to clear the palate by rinsing with what I judged to be firewater. The task went swimmingly.
My chili is nothing but ground-up cigar butts," said a querulous woman at dinner later.
How's that for gratitude.She had not borne the heat, no, and probably could not tell a pinto bean from a crested newt but there she was in her frippery finery sounding off over some good man's life work.
There were no cigar butts in my chili. Nothing but good and fair. I thought of old Maude Freickert's beautiful comment when somebody asked her how many husbands she had had. "Twelve (or however many it was), and every one a winner."