On Tuesday, November 4, Darrow and I packed up our foster son in his stroller and walked the quarter mile to our polling place. We approached the old stone church a little surprised. There were no lines, few cars and little commotion on the street. As we left the darkness outside and entered the basement of the church, there were idle poll judges at the waiting. They whisked us through the check-in process and into the booth. I held the little man in my arms so he could watch me use the touch-screen to cast my vote. Afterwards I asked one of the workers where the crowds were. She indicated that half of those registered in the precinct had voted in the first two hours that the polls were opened. Like so many others that I had spoken to that day, people in our neighborhood seemed anxious to vote. I took it as a good sign. We then asked her if she would take a photo of the three of us. If our son remains with us, we can show him the picture and tell him about the night that we cast votes and made history. And if he is gone, then we will send the photo with him so he can always tell people–I was there.
We returned to our house for some home-made pizza, pajamas, story-time and then our son was off to bed. Sleep trumps history when it comes to toddlers. Darrow and I headed up to the TV room and sat there watching the night unfold. Each hour there was the trickle of news, more polls closing, States lining up behind their candidates. As the nine o’clock hour rolled around the anticipation was beginning to grow. Preliminary numbers began to roll in for counties in Pennsylvania and Florida and it stirred an excitement that this thing might actually happen. Still there were so many States left grey–yet to be decided. I think it was close to ten o’clock when they turned Pennsylvania blue that I could feel it coming. I knew that something amazing was happening. At ten, when Ohio and Florida were blue, I knew it was over, I knew that all we needed was the West Coast. There was no way that the West could turn red. It wasn’t possible. As the countdown began to eleven o’clock it felt like some kind of surge that had begun slowly earlier in the evening was about to crash over everything. It was our friends in California, Oregon and Washington and as it turns out, friends in North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico. What I will tell our children is that as the news came across the TV, that your Daddy and Papa sat there and wept, that we were both in shock, that neither of us could fathom really, what had happened to us–to all of us.
We are still reveling in the newness of this thing. We live in Baltimore, but I still work in Washington. Aides to President-elect Obama (don’t you just love the sound of that) were in the media last week trying to tamp down expectations. They are reminding the public that there are deep-rooted, exceedingly difficult challenges facing us and we cannot expect things to be resolved overnight. What they don’t understand is that most of us have been waiting, patiently, for a long time, for someone to give us the hope that our days will be better than they have been of late; that our country might no longer be run through greed, incompetence and divisiveness; that our children will not live in the mire of fear and uncertainty that we have endured for the last eight years; and that we all are a part of something bigger than just ourselves. Over the last two years of listening to his message, I have become a believer. We can and will wait–yes we can.