Up until the last election, when I was shocked to find myself crying at the announcement that John Kerry had lost and Bush Jr. had been re-elected as our president for another term, I have never been what you could consider a political animal. In fact, I remember students cheering at our arts high in '93 when Clinton first took office and having to ask the person I'd been talking to which political party our president-to-be belonged to. Happily, I am far more enlightened these days than I was back then.
Today my husband took a vacation day from work with the sole purpose of making it easier for us both to vote. My beloved was kind enough to let me vote first (ah! sweet half-hour of solitude and freedom!) and as I drove to the polls I was reminded of many things.
In order to reach the elementary school where I was to vote, I had to drive past the apartment where Jesse and I lived for 12 years prior to purchasing our house 2 1/2 years ago. It's a pretty drive that I don't usually take anymore (though it's only minutes away from our current home) and as I passed "my" Holiday gas station and "my" intersection-from-hell, I felt a true longing, if not for our cramped apartment, for the lovely little neighborhood that saw me from my teen years into my 30's. (My God, that looks even worse in print.) Driving past, I could see the windows of our old apartment, shutters drawn as it hasn't been rented out since, and regretted once again forgetting to take the window boxes that I'd installed on the little 3rd floor balcony with me when we moved.
Across the street from my voting station sat Jesse's and my one-time dream house. 8 years ago when it went on the market, we were given a tour by the owners, and fell in love with the great-room kitchen, built-in spice drawers, tile hearth, tiny little bedrooms and honest-to-goodness tower. The house was built in the early 1900's and carefully moved from Anoka to Fridley years ago. Even knowing that we couldn't afford it, Jesse and I drove past it together at night long after it sold to someone else. As I parked on the curb before heading in to vote, I couldn't help but think about what I would do differently with the front yard were it mine. (I would banish the cheap plastic Adirondack chairs for one!)
Making my way to door #6 as indicated by voting signs, I passed children at recess on the playground, and smiled at a little girl that skipped past dressed in a red skirt and sweatshirt, white bobby socks and black Mary Janes. She reminded me of who I was really voting for. I placed my votes for Obama/Biden, Senator candidate Barkley and the MN environment levee and proudly affixed my red "I voted" sticker to the lapel of my leopard-print dress. To me, this is an honest-to-goodness rite of adulthood. It's right up there with wearing the cross-shaped smudge of a Catholic on Ash Wednesday. On my way back to the van, I complimented a little girl's funky pastel argyle knee-highs. Sadly, animal-print and argyle do not mix. Sigh.
On my way home, I remembered that once when I was a girl a family member (my dad or an uncle maybe?) asked me dubiously if I even knew the names of the political parties. I was eager to please and promptly replied, "I think so! Isn't it Democrats and...Prostitutes?" A roar of laughter went up among the grown-ups and someone said something along the lines of, "That's about right!" while my face flamed and shame snaked through my belly.
Once home, Jes' ran out to vote, just as later my sister would come by to drop our nephew off at our place long enough to cast her ballot. When I picked my daughter up from school she took note of my sticker and asked incredulously, "You voted!?" I assured her that indeed, I had. "Who'd ya vote for?!" she blurted guilelessly. I remember asking my parents the same question and being told that a person's vote was private and, when pressed, that they were neither republicans or democrats, but independents. Remembering how disenheartening that answer set was to me, I smiled and told her, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden!" "Oh!" She said off-handedly, "I voted for John McCain, but then I realised that he doesn't want to bring our troops home from Iraq until 2013!" (This is an issue near to her heart, as her godfather, Sgt. Travis Knudsen, is currently serving his second year in Iraq.) This statement gave me pause until the obvious came to me, "Did they have an election at school?" Of course they did. Very cool!
Off to work I went, and I resisted the urge to check the early returns online, thinking that it would be more fun to hear the news from my husband after my shift. The second that I got into my van, I dialed home with my cell phone and asked Jesse for an update. He answered, "I dunno. Haven't checked!" WTF?!! I explained that I'd been waiting all night to share the moment with him and he said, "Tell you what: I won't check until you get home so that we can find out together!" I took a fast food order from him and then had to tell the guys at our local Arby's, "Don't tell me, don't tell me!" before driving home to be with my man.
We cheered, hugged, kissed at the news that Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be our next presidential team, listened to Obama's acceptance speech (which gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes, alternately) and checked the news regarding MN's levee and the Senatorial candidates (Norm Coleman and Al Franken were neck and neck, so there will certainly be a recount). We checked back with Obama in time to see Michelle's kick ass dress (gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I want it!) and smile at the appearance of Joe Biden, the darling Obama girls and Biden's cutie-pie grand-daughter.
In the end, I am happy and exhausted and feeling sympathy for John McCain, who is a wonderful and admirable man, a good politician and an asset to America by any definition of the word! (Psst! President-Elect Obama, wouldn't McCain make a great Secretary of Defence?! I think so! But then, it was Jesse's idea, and I tend to think that most of his ideas are good.) Peace out, fellow Americans!