Start ’em young


obamachild.jpg6:44 A.M. Election Day 2008.

“Mommy, wake up, wake up.” It’s my typical alarm: four little hands patting me out of deep, luxurious, all-too-brief sleep. During the week reveille is between 6:22-6:46; on the weekends I get until the ripe old hour of 7.

I opened one eye, thought fast: “hey, guys, why don’t you go downstairs to get the newspaper and check out the line at the polling place. It’s election day.” Our voting place is, conveniently, in a student lounge space in the back hall of our building; the boys always come with us to vote, usually in their pjs.

“ELECTION DAY! ELECTION DAY!” You’d have thought it was Christmas and birthday.

They stomped out of the bedroom, chanting “O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A! O-BAM-A!” and I heard them racing down the hall to the elevators, intent on scouting out our voting prospects.

Their enthusiasm was dampened by the line at the polling place (confession: we inadvertently cut the line, so what should have been a ninety minute wait was maybe 45 minutes.To all who waited in line around us: apologies).

We finally wedged our way into the voting booths – Husband with Caleb, me with Liam. I watched Liam pull the lever for an African American presidential candidate.

Will Liam remember this, when he’s finally old enough to vote on his own? Will Caleb? What if they remember the Obama presidency with the same ruefulness with which I think about the first Clinton term?

Remember the heady thrill when Clinton was elected? I was at an election party with graduate student friends, all of us totally broke, but we scraped together our credit cards to buy celebratory champagne. And then over the next four – eight – years, that elation just dribbled away..  But I won’t think about that now.

Instead, over the course of the day, I started to feel – well, almost giddy. Like Liam and Caleb this morning (before the line-waiting part)

We had to pry Liam away from the TV earlier tonight for bedtime – he was furious about having to go to bed before it was all over and I will be sorely tempted to wake him up if Obama wins.

Now it’s ten o’clock and they’ve just called Ohio for Obama. So okay, I’m going to say it – when Obama wins.

Maybe our country really can do this, really can cast off the ugliness of the past eight years. When I see the 70,000 people crowded into Grant Park in Chicago, I want to cry. I’m sure I will cry before the evening is out – not just out of relief, but out of pride. Pride in the people of this country who waited in line for hours to vote, who worked and worked and worked to get this man elected. (Swivelheader writes about this too, very eloquently.) 

My mother is at a friend’s apartment in Chicago, overlooking Millenium Park; she’s planning to walk with her friends down to Grant Park later tonight, although she says she can hear the crowds from the apartment balcony. She’s been an Obama supporter from his early days in Illinois and when she called me just now to exclaim over the Ohio thing, the phone practically vibrated with her excitement.

Some of my earliest memories are of canvassing with her on the North Side of Chicago; of going to “headquarters” to help stuff envelopes; of leaflets from this or that political campaign being piled under the dining table. Politics – good old-fashioned progressive politics – has been an integral part of her life as long as I’ve known her. And although I’ve never been as active in politics as she has, I’m hoping to give my children what she’s given me: a firm belief that politics can be an honorable profession and that it does matter who runs – and who votes.
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