Wednesday, January 21, 2009


After dropping the girls off at school, where they would be watching the Inauguration with their classes, The Boy and I came back home. I still needed to eat breakfast, but I switched on the television first. There were Malia and Sasha Obama, in their colorful overcoats, heading through the Capitol Building toward the balcony and their seats. I sat down on the couch.

I would not leave the television until after the ceremony was over. In fact, it was after the Bush family boarded the helicopter and departed and everyone went back inside the Capitol. Breakfast would have to wait.

The Boy watched with me, wanting to know who everyone was as they came out onto the balcony. He identified the men by their ties (between the scarves and the ties, it was easy to identify them by color): he would later say, "there's Joe Biden in the blue tie."

Tears came to my eyes over and over again, particularly when I saw the huge crowd filling up and spilling out of the National Mall. We all want to be a witness to history, especially since so many of us feel ownership of this historical event. I am too young to have fought the hard fight for civil rights, but I did cast my vote for a man who would have been my choice regardless of the color of his skin. I helped make this day happen! WE made this day happen, all of us together. Just look at all of the people who contributed to this moment!

I think this is so important, too: this is no Affirmative Action. This is a man who is more Presidential than anyone I have ever seen. The Boy spotted him the first time they showed him walking through the Capitol Building, and shouted, "there's Barack Obama!" (Although sometimes he says "Arack Obama.") Obama may have more composure than anyone ever has. Imagine how that quiet confidence will come across in meetings with foreign heads of state.

The ceremony began. We saw Aretha and her fabulous hat. Not everyone can pull off that gigantic bow, but Aretha absolutely can. I loved it! We saw a quartet of world-class musicians (Jewish, Asian, African-American, and Hispanic) play a beautiful arrangement of "Simple Gifts." We saw Joe Biden become our Vice President, and then we saw Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of office. I stood up in my living room, wondering why I wasn't with a group of people - why was I holed up in my living room with only The Boy? I watched the Justice rearrange the words of the oath, and Obama pause to figure out whether he should fix the error (he decided to repeat them the way the Justice had said them). And then he uttered the words, "so help me God," and I burst into applause and tears at the same time! I picked up The Boy in a huge hug and swung him around.

Then The Boy said, "can we watch something else now?"

Of course, we didn't. We listened to Obama's speech (well, I did, and it was difficult through all of the "when will he stop talking?" whines) and appreciated once again that Obama doesn't think of this presidency as his, but truly thinks of himself as a representative of the people. It's striking.

I enjoyed the colors in the benediction ("the red man can get ahead, man"), and very much enjoyed watching that helicopter take off and fly away, getting smaller and smaller.

When the girls got home from school, I said, "what did you do today? Did you see history in the making?" Big Girl said, "we started learning cursive!"

They did watch it, but no matter how many emotions they see from me, they just can't grasp this. They will always live in a world where a black man has been President of the United States. They may never understand this the way we do. And you know what? Hallelujah!

I did manage to run one errand yesterday, but other than that, I felt like I spent the day in front of the television.

However, one cannot escape this moment in time: like many, my day included both celebration over a new President and consternation over a family member's recent layoff.

Please keep my brother-in-law in your thoughts.


smalltownmom said...

I didn't get to view the inauguration, so I am "seeing" it through others' experiences. Thank you.

Good luck to your brother-in-law.

Jason, as himself said...

One of the teaching moments that I will remember the most is the inauguration. Gathered around the tv with my 1st and 2nd graders, explaining it step by step. Even at that age they knew this was really a big deal. I hope they always remember it, too.