This being the very last week of December, I have a strong inclination to bid 1982 sayonara and pack it in. This has not been the best of years. The very digits 1, 9, 8, 2 remind me of an old Orson Welles line in "The Third Man": "The 20th century? I could pick a better century out of a hat." We could do better in a raffle of years.
But before I head on to clean slates and fresh date books, there are a few stories I left hanging on my cliff. Permit me to collect and update some tales that appeared in this column over the past 11.3 months.
Last June, I wrote about the 12-year-old girl from Kalamazoo, Mich., a victim of rape who was forbidden an abortion by the court. This child-mother had then been accused of the emotional neglect of her baby by the county prosecutor's office.
Since then, the prosecutor struck a deal with the girl. She gave up guardianship of the child she was forced to bear, in exchange for being found not guilty of neglect. Today the rapist is in jail. The mother is in foster care. The baby is living with people who will be appointed permanent legal guardians. Yes indeedy, the system's vision of a happy ending.
In Girard, Pa., last year, I commented on a group of students and parents who were worrying less about hitting the books than banning them. They protested the "coarse" language in Studs Terkel's text, "Working." Well, the school board there decided finally to keep Terkel in the curriculum.
Nevertheless, it wasn't in general a very good year for books. There were escalating protests lodged by the public against such perennial nonfavorites as "Catcher in the Rye," "Grapes of Wrath" and "Forever Amber." There were even some concerned citizens in Anniston, Ala., who filed a complaint against Doris Day's autobiography. You remember Dirty Dotty, right?
Another main-ring event this year featured the military muscle versus the military wives. The Pentagon didn't want any money-grubbing ex- wives to get their hands on hubby's pensions. The wives and ex-wives thought that a military pension should be considered property, part of the family assets that could be divided in the event of a divorce, just like a civilian pension.
This round was won on points or, rather, congressional votes last September, by the wives. As of Feb. 3, any state that chooses to can divide military pensions up to 50 percent.
Not all of our stories got resolved that neatly. The infant formula controversy is as fertile as ever. In March, after more than 50,000 cans of defective infant formula got on the marketplace, Congress held hearings to figure out why the FDA has never put out their regulations. The FDA eventually managed to scribble down some rules that basically let the manufacturers decide how to regulate themselves.
As of Dec. 1, a coalition of consumer groups and parents led by the Public Citizen Health Research Group filed suit against the FDA for such weak rules. Stay tuned for the next installment in the saga of how the Reagan administration is protecting business from big bad babies.
While we're on the subject of babies, one of the more kinky stories of my year came from California, when the sperm bank announced its first dividend, a nine-pound baby girl. The mother had done time in the federal prison for fraud. Since then, a boy dividend from the bank was born to an unmarried 40-year-old psychologist.
Now it appears that the sperm bank idea is germinating. A self-proclaimed feminist bank opened in Oakland, which offers a donor catalog, including information about height, weight, eye and hair color as well as occupation of the donors. Watch (out) for a branch opening in your neighborhood soon.
I also followed the story of children in Asia fathered (in the more traditional way) by Americans. The first of some 10,000 Amerasian children, the lucky ones whoseo fathers want them, arrived in October. Since then, a total of 59 have immigrated. Next month, a federal law will go into effect to make immigration easier for Amerasian children who were abandoned or unknown by their fathers.
No roundup of the usual suspects would be complete without updating the saga of the liberated woman in her Maidenform bra. My diatribe against Dr. Maidenform making rounds in her elegant delectables didn't receive any response from the company, but I am told that the same liberated lady can now be seen leading a symphony orchestra. The beat goes on.
As for the recent tale of hell-fire and herpes, Schlafly-style, all I can tell you is that today there are now people out there spreading the notion that God hath wrought herpes as a punishment for your sins. A recent TV sermon by the ever-trendy Billy Graham was labeled "Herpes, Sex and the Bible." Sounds like a Reader's Digest story.
But enough of all this, enough certainly of 1982. With any luck we will not look back on this year as the Good Old Days.