I must confess that when I woke up on January 20 to the usual sounds of shifting legos and pounding feet (Don’t let them fool you, there is no such thing as the pitter-pattering of little feet unless you own a cat.) I wasn’t thinking about history being made. I was running through the subjects the boys and I needed to get through before lunch and whether or not we should go to Fazoli’s for $1.00 kids’ meals after Maggie’s gymnastics lesson. When Jim reminded me that it was Inauguration Day, I did a head slap and then went back to thinking about the previously stated subjects. Then Jim dropped the bomb that he wanted me to be sure that the kids witnessed the swearing in of Barack Obama as our forty-fourth president. Ugh.
It isn’t that I wanted to deny my kids the privilege of witnessing history. It’s wasn’t even that I resent the fact that Obama won the election, at least not entirely. It’s that witnessing history is often inconvenient and time-consuming. After all, I had lesson plans to complete and leotards to wash. Still, I begrudgingly agreed to plant the kids in front of the computer at snack time and even offered a cookie to anyone who would sit still and watch. Unfortunately for us, the event was delayed, so snack time had came and went and the kids’ attentions spans were stretched and snapped by the time President Obama was sworn in. They did come running when I bellowed “More cookies! Quick!” and thus they became observers of undoubtedly a momentous event in our nation’s story. So for my kids, January 20, 2009 will stand out as the day mom went crazy and surprised them with cookies—twice.
The day held a few surprises for me as well. I was surprised at the tears and emotion which rose in my eyes and heart as the kids and I prayed for our new president, for his safety and leadership and for our nation as a whole. I was surprised by the wave of cynicism that swept through my heart, especially anytime I turned on NPR. I felt left out and marginalized. This wasn’t the guy I voted for. He doesn’t represent my perspective or viewpoint, so why even bother to tune in? But other thoughts struggled against these dark clouds of pessimism. I have spent the last eight years wishing people would just give the President the benefit of the doubt, wishing that they would just listen for a minute before giving a knee-jerk, partisan response. And here I was on day one, full of suspicion and ready to pounce. At least now I understood the urge—you always sound cooler being against something than for it.
The final surprise of the day was how quickly this moment was lost in the rhythm of the day’s ordinary events. As easily as you change the channel, we switched from history in the making to lunch making, naps and video time. I felt a bit chagrined at my fickleness, but perhaps this is the way it is meant to be. Perhaps we aren’t meant to dwell in the big picture for too long. We are creatures of the immediate, if for no other reason than because to linger on the large scale too long is to begin to feel terribly insignificant. After all, we are all history in the making, all starring in the role of our lifetime. So what to do? Shrink in the light of the massive scope of history or magnify the size of our own small world until it’s all we see? It is my intention to do a bit of both. To wake up each morning, whispering a small prayer for my President, my leaders and my country, taking a moment to stare the big picture head on. But then listen to the call of those pounding feet and legos at work and take on my part, one unmemorable day at a time.
I think the impact of this election has really not sunk in for a lot of people, myself included. Until last evening (at least in small part). My friend sent me Time Magazine’s top 100 photos of all time. There was this photo in the middle of the book of three students being hosed down because they were black. I turned to my friend Paul and said, “wait, this happened in the US? Not 60 years ago? I can’t even believe that!” And then we both remembered we now have an African American President – even if only half black. It really became more real and powerful in that moment.
Granted, I don’t think that one should vote for a President simply based on his skin color – we’ve all heard this lecture before. However, despite my disagreements with the man and beyond all my agreements with him, realizing the redemption involved in his election is truly extraordinary.