Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No rain. Bright skies. C got up first, and then I stumbled downstairs. It was still dark out. The kitchen clock read 5:53 a.m. Our poll opened at 7:00 and we wanted to vote together before C had to leave for work. A quick shower for him. A quick half cup of cold coffee and an energy bar for me. Sunrose as we walked to the polling place, an elementary school near our house.

When I was a little girl, I used to watch the election returns with my father. The Boston Globe ran a map on its front page, with the different states and their electoral votes. You could pencil them in yourself as the results rolled in.

The first election I voted in was 1976, when Jimmy Carter was the Democratic nominee. I had reservations voting for him because he was a born-again Christian, but it turned out to be the best vote I ever cast. Until now.

The line was already forming when we got to the school steps at 7 a.m. Most of the other folks in line with us were African Americans. If I was feeling tremulous and thrilled and disbelieving that we had actually gotten to this moment, how much more so were they? C was anxious: was I sure this was the right place? He couldn't find our street number on the list. I kept telling him I had voted here for the past several elections. The line inched forward, and then the poll-workers got their tables set up and we entered the warm building.

A couple of mix-ups--one guy was in the wrong line, or something. he was very upset about it. They kept offering him an absentee ballot, and he didn't want it, he wanted a real ballot but he didn't want to have to wait in line all over again. An older black lady ahead of me wore a red knitted cap with a pom-pom on it, and leaned on her daughter's shoulder. "I'm just going to lean on you," she said to her daughter. Then, "I'm going to call up Mary and tell her she needs to put on her shoes and come down and vote."

The older black people were the most poignant to me. After having lived through so much, to see the day when a young black man is on the verge of being elected president--

Then it was my turn. Thank goodness they have paper ballots this year. I inked in for Obama and Barbara lee and then started in on the propositions. I had a cheat sheet in my pocket, which was just as well, as I can't read the fine print on those things anyway. I handed it to the man who put it into the machine and watched him turn the crank while my number flashed: 14. I was the 14th voter at that polling place today. I'd bet the percentage of people voting for obama in our neighborhood is somewhere around 95 percent.

C was still at his little booth and I saw a flash when he took a picture of his ballot. On our way out, we paused on the steps to take another picture, when the enormity of what is happening hit him in the face and he suddenly burst into tears. It was a surprise to him. We took our picture at the bottom of the steps. My hair is a mess, his nose is red--and we are so in awe of being here, now, in this time, along with everyone else.

Then it was work for him and Home Depot for me, and now to the grocery store to buy some snacks for tonight when we'll have a few friends over to watch the returns with us. This is a night to gather the tribes. This is a night to kneel down, cry, exult, breathe deeply, be altogether reverent, hopeful, and tremulous.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i relate well to C's tears of joy
it's what i feel
most every time i see or hear
Barack Obama

may he WIN
and God protect him
now and forever

Terry said...

My husband is African American and he and I watched the election results with fear and then with awe that this country finally did something to make us really proud!! I never thought that this day would come, it has and I want us to take a moment and appreciate what it means.He cried , I cried, but tears of joy are so amazing and rare. I am grateful to be able to think of the possibilities instead of dreading the next disaster.