Friday, November 7, 2008
The Day of Firsts
I had a great job on election day. I was a runner. My first-ever election day job, from five-thirty to nine a.m., was to drive from one polling place to another dropping off Amendment and Proposition forms, "I Voted For Change" stickers (very important- not only for proudly wearing but also redeemable for Starbucks coffee, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and/or Krispy Kremes), yard signs, and t-shirts for poll workers. I was thrilled with my assignment (though I did covet the lovely neon green t-shirts of the poll volunteers- mine was boring pale blue) because I got to see the lines. The faces. I got to feel the electricity; the excitement on the city sidewalks and church parking lots. This vote didn't feel like any I'd ever experienced. It felt like it was super-charged with a current of promise.
At one polling place, at five-thirty a.m., the line swept from the building to the sidewalk and down a block. I walked up with my box of supplies to see cheering, smiles and high-fives between friends and complete strangers waiting in the dark to cast their historic vote. Older women waited on folding chairs, those in line near them helping to move them as the line began to crawl forward. I could have stayed all day, watching. There were no complaints about the line- not a hint of annoyance from anyone. It was as if the whole crowd knew that the long line was a wonderful sign of what the day might bring.
My daughter decided to vote at home. She left college with a carload of kids and drove the three hours to get back. Finally, at two-thirty in the afternoon, her little white Subaru pulled up to our polling place, the school at which she attended kindergarten. She was wearing a shirt that said, "Throw Parties, Not Grenades." That's our girl. Anyway, we chatted with the poll workers and finally wandered in to cast our votes, our first child voting in her first-ever presidential election. (Little did she know her vote would still not be counted toward the nation's total, three days later. Come on, Missouri! Go blue!) She looked excited, grown-up; completely confident in her choice. I had a hard time not crying.
Monday and Tuesday were pretty teary in general. I cried when my candidate's grandmother died. What a life she led. What a grandchild she raised! I'm sure she saw the outcome. I cried while last-minute canvassing when a tiny older woman with a heavy accent- a woman I could picture studying hard for her citizenship exam forty years before- pressed her hand to my arm and told me that she was too old to change our world, and asked me to do it for her. But most of all, I cried as I watched the 44th President-elect of our amazing country standing on a stage in Chicago with his beautiful family, side by side with a wonderful statesman Vice-President-elect and his family, their colors blending like a perfect artist's rendering of what our country should always look like.
For the first time, we've gotten it right.