Monday, November 05, 2012

On Hope (Four Years Later)

I'm not entirely sure how it is possible that four years have passed since President Obama was first elected. Already, the memories of that Tuesday have faded for the girls. Only Kicky vaguely recalls being awakened from sleep to hear Obama give his acceptance speech with his wife and two little girls at his side. And neither of them remembers that cold day in January when we watched the inauguration on TV while their dad braved the frigid temperatures and unbelievable crowds on the Mall. Obama's daughters have grown, and so have ours. Four years is a long time in the life of a child, but not so long in the life of a man. And especially a man with such a big job to do.

I don't know what will happen tomorrow. No one really does. Because no matter what any polls suggest right now, uncertainty is the only certainty. What I do know is this: four years ago, everything was in turmoil. Everything was precarious. The housing market had crashed, the economy had crashed, people were despairing everywhere. Obama offered hope, and while the ascension from those seemingly bottomless depths has been slow, the climb has been a steady one. And it is hope that sustained us.

This campaign has been endless and ugly. I truly fear for the future. I fear a backsliding, an undoing of all the good that has been done. I worry about my rights as a woman and the rights of my daughters to govern their own bodies and to love whomever it is they choose to love. I worry about the earth's health, and the health of all the people on it. I need hope that our movement as a country, as people, will be forward.

Below is the letter I wrote to the girls so they might never forget the importance of that historic moment. And lest I ever forget the pride, the excitement, and, most importantly, the hope I felt for my country that day just over four years ago:

January 19, 2009

Dear Kicky and Esmée,

I just put you down to sleep after a long day off from work and school. Your Daddy is at the theatre at one of the inauguration events, and I am here, listening to the sounds of the house as you fall asleep.

I know you both understand what is happening tomorrow, though I also know you are too little still to understand how very important this day is. Your father and I debated for a long time about whether or not we should take you down to the Mall to witness the swearing in of our 44th president, Mr. Barack Obama. And it was with a heavy heart, and more than a little hesitation, that I finally told your father to accept the ticket that had been offered to him and made the decision that we girls would stay home to watch Obama address this nation as President for the very first time.

On the news, the streets that we drive every day are filled with people. There is a line trailing two blocks long out of Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. The Mall is crawling with people who will sleep in the cold all night just to be closer to him tomorrow. Esmée, when you go to school on Wednesday, you will be only blocks away from where the Obama girls eat and play and sleep. People have traveled here (our home, the place where we live!) from all over this country, all over this world, just to take part in this moment in history.

I can’t help but worry that I am depriving you of an experience of a lifetime, that some day I may truly wish I had risked the crowds and suffered the cold with you, so that you could also be a part of history. That this will be one of my big regrets. We live so close. We could almost walk. But I only want you warm and safe. And as your mommy, that trumps everything, right?

What I need to remind myself is that you are a part of this moment in history. You, my two bright eyed, curly-haired angels, are Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream realized. You too are products of the civil rights struggle which has ultimately led to this moment. You too are proof that this world can change.

Your grandfather, who passed away before you were born, was a young man back when Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus. Around the same time he was one of the first black lifeguards at an all white east coast beach. When he proposed to your Nonna (and she said yes) it was with the understanding that they might both lose their jobs. That their love for each other would threaten friendships and family ties. They risked everything to be together. And the result was more than twenty-five years of marriage, your Auntie B, and your Daddy.

And, thankfully, their courage, and the courage of countless others was not in vain. By the time your father and I fell in love, the world had shifted on its axis. Changed.

Now, when I look around your classrooms at the myriad of colors (at the faces in all their beautiful shades of brown and peach and cream), my heart thrills at your curiosity about each others' differences and your simultaneous ability to transcend them. You are dumbfounded by our fascination with this, can’t understand why a brown-skinned man in the White House is such an anomaly. You are seemingly incapable of prejudice. Racial bias is, at least for now, a bitter relic of your ancestors’ pasts.

Tomorrow, we will watch our future unfold on TV, safe and warm inside. You may or may not remember the details of this day, but I will try to remember them for you.

Whether we are there or not, you are a part of history, little ones. You are the proof. Yes we can, he says. And I believe -- I have to believe for you -- he is telling the truth.

On this day and every day, I love you…to the bottom of the ocean and back to the top,



Sue Boggio said...

Wow. Another thoughtful, stirring blog post. My hopes for my daughter and granddaughter's future are the same as you hold for your daughters. My fears echo yours. Let us hope tomorrow is a good day for all of us. Thanks, Tammy.

Angie Myer, The A la Carte Mommy said...

Trying desperately not to SOB at my computer as I read. Beautiful & moving! I too remember that election night and inauguartion so vividly and rejoiced that my child would be raised to see this as normal. Love it! And today I PRAY that we will move FORWARD, not back. Blessings, dear Tammy!

Angie Myer, The A la Carte Mommy said...

Trying desperately not to SOB at my computer as I read. Beautiful & moving! I too remember that election night and inauguartion so vividly and rejoiced that my child would be raised to see this as normal. Love it! And today I PRAY that we will move FORWARD, not back. Blessings, dear Tammy!

Karen M said...

Thank you for reminding me what that hope felt like 4 years ago!

T. Greenwood said...

Thanks, all. All we can do now is vote and wait :)