Jul 3, 2010

Barack Around the Block

this originally appeared on nycmomsblog on November 6, 2008

I'm not sure I'll ever forgive myself for staying in bed watching TV instead of joining the throngs outside, but to my credit, the throngs weren't celebrating on my own little block, but rather around the corner on the main avenue. I could hear them. Shouting, cheers, swells of pleasure wafting in through my open window.

It started when Ohio was called for Obama. A loud cheer went up. It was like watching a tense sporting event and hearing neighbors celebrating the highs and moaning through the lows to the rhythms of what the announcer on my little tv was saying. Just another reason to love New York--when you're like me and the thought of not having people around (within shouting distance, preferably) gives you the total heebie-jeebies, In Cold Blood style, if you know what I mean. I like to know they're out there, and I like the shared experience of having them shout out to the things on my tv.

All was right with the world. The swing states were swinging our way, the kids were all asleep. We let them watch until about 9:30 but past elections haven't been called (truly called, and I was feeling superstitious) until 3am, or the next morning, or sometime near Christmas, so I didn't want to keep them up. Plus, I have a special relationship with Murphy's Law and chances were that if I'd kept them up, Ohio and Florida and Iowa might have swung the other way, and so I figured we should all just play it safe and get to bed.

Plus they'd had the day off. If you ask me, NO ONE should have to do anything but vote on Election Day, but that's another post for another time. Or you could watch this excellent and chilling (but less chilling now that we know the outcome) Rachel Maddow piece on the new poll tax, and hear a great argument for that. So the kids had been off of school all day and had been at each other's throats. And they did have to wake up early the next day so keeping them up til midnight seemed careless (of course if I'd known...).

So all was right with the world and I decided to let myself doze off, just a little drifting, at about 10:30, to the ocean of noise from the people outside, but nothing distracting. Just great happy noises. At 11 my husband woke me up. He's done it! Obama won! They just called it! The crowd outside went nuts, I sat up and sat, glued, to the footage of the Spellman College kids dancing and singing to Signed, Sealed, Delivered. A perfect song for the moment.

The phone rang and my friend was on a street corner near her house a few blocks away. You should see this! she shouted into the phone. Everyone's out here, everyone's cheering, the streets are full, there are fireworks! I made great tearful happy noises into the phone and let her get back to the craziness.

I'm not sure Obama would have approved of the gunshots that punctuated the celebrating I could hear from my bed. Just a few enthusiastic shots, I'm sure. Not unlike what we hear sometimes at midnight on New Years. But when you want to make a loud fireworks like noise and all you have is a gun, I guess you use the gun, eh? What's a guy with a gun who didn't think to buy fireworks in advance to do?

This all made my husband want a beer, so he went down and got one, and went out and walked around a bit to get the feel of it. Part of me wanted to go, but part of me wanted to lie in bed, under my comforter, and watch the Spellman College students weep and sing and wait for McCain to concede and for Obama to speak. I didn't want to miss a minute.

Just before twelve we tried to wake up our oldest. Obama just won, my husband said to him.

He did? my son responded.

Yeah, and he's about to give his acceptance speech, do you want to come into our room and watch it with us?

That's okay, I'm all set. was the reassured reply. I learned later that my son has no memory of our attempt to rouse him, or of his own polite refusal. He felt a little bit left out when the kids in his class raised their hands to indicate they'd seen the whole thing, but in my husband's Obama shirt, worn down to his knees, he didn't feel that left out.

I did wonder if we should just go ahead and wake everyone up--forcefully, if they kept refusing our polite suggestions--to make them bear witness to this incredible, completely unmatchable moment. But decided against it as well.

The moment was the moment and I was in it. I wasn't out in it, I was in in it. I wasn't alone in it, but I wasn't making it anything other than it was. I didn't have to do anything to create a more perfect version of it. A perfect moment, a perfect speech, perfect children asleep in perfect beds, a perfect comforter and a perfect pillow, a perfectly wonderful feeling that nothing could ever do anything to take this moment away. Nothing could happen--not anything--that would make this moment not have happened.

At about 12:35 I decided that Obama must be on his way to bed. He'd been in like a zillion states in the last few days, giving speeches at rallies at all hours, and he must have been exhausted and now he could rest and he seems like a sensible guy and since he couldn't go smoke cigarettes he might have just chosen to go to sleep. I hadn't done much out of the ordinary in the last few days, 'cept some awesome trick-or-treating on Friday, and cheering on the NYC Marathoners who run up the avenue around the corner on Sunday, and teaching art to sixty little girls on Monday. Oh, and getting up at 5:30 to wait in line at 5:45 for the polls to open at 6am with my 8 year old daughter, and giving terrorist fist jabs to the neighbors (including our local councilwoman) in the polling place, and smiling at everyone, and feeling buckets of hopefulness laced with twinges of worry all day. And maybe that was enough.

So I figured if Obama was in bed, I might as well go to sleep too. And I dozed off again with a happy heart to the sound of a million neighbors celebrating the most wonderful moment that my children would never forget, even though they were sound asleep, and that I would never forget, even though I was still in bed.

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