We spent the morning of election day door knocking, the girls and I and a friend of ours. I pulled the girls in the little red wagon. It was unusually warm for November 4, sunny and breezy. Iris played happily in the wagon; Ingrid hopped in and out, running along beside us, helping ring doorbells and jumping down the last two steps of each front porch into drifts of yellow leaves.
If Ingrid remembers anything from that day, it will probably be that. She still plays “door knocking” at home, “hanging” pieces of paper from our inside doorknobs if no one’s home.
A came home from work early, and after the girls’ naps the four of us walked to the school together to vote. We were quiet, walking there. It felt big, and even now, a week later, it’s getting easier to forget the tension of it—the sense of being almost there, of not being able to do anything else to help, of hoping—but not knowing—that things were going to go the way we wanted.
After dinner we brought the TV up from the basement. Two friends came over, and my brother- and sister-in-law. As the first states were called for Obama, we were our usual skeptical selves. Based on 1% of precincts reporting? Even when the TV networks started calling the election for Obama, I couldn’t quite believe it.
Planning the evening, we’d expected lightheartedness. We could open that bottle of champagne in the basement! But in fact we just sat and watched, and looked at each other, often very quietly. A kind of fragility came over us, I think, as we waited, half joyful and still half afraid.
A few minutes later, as A surfed through the channels, I caught the phrase, John McCain is going to— just before A changed the channel. I said, Wait, McCain is going to— and then every station cut to McCain stepping up to the podium, and I cried. Thank God, I thought. Thank God.
Watching Obama and his family appear on that stage, lit up in the dark, and then hearing him talk to the whole country at once, what could we all do but cry? Every one of us did. What a relief, to think that our president is someone we can admire and be proud of. What a relief to feel that we’re finally heading in the right direction. What a joy that people who risked their lives for civil rights have now seen what just a few decades ago they could only imagine. And what a delight to be part of electing someone who—I’m convinced, in spite of everything he’s up against—is going to be a great leader. I thought, So this is what people mean by ‘proud to be an American’.
I heard on the radio the next morning (and this made me cry again in the middle of traffic) that in many places, during Obama’s speech, people stopped their cars and opened their doors and turned up the volume. Americans stopped their cars and opened the doors. Oh my God that is huge.
I know reality will nip away at the edges of all this unabated joy. Compromises, politics, obstacles. All of that will happen. But for now—still, a week later—HOORAY. And HOORAY! This is just what we need.