Originally posted Nov. 5, 2008
Oh, what a night, and Noah and I were there! Along with an
estimated quarter-million other Obama fans who squeezed into
Grant Park last night, we heard Obama make his victory speech in
person. I still can't believe he won, let alone that we were
there to see it happen - to feel it happen, alongside so
I'm still not sure how we got so lucky. Millions
wanted those free tickets to Hutchinson Field in Grant Park, and
I'd been put on the notorious waiting list. But Monday
evening my ticket arrived in my in-box, valid (and
non-transferrable) for me plus one guest. I had to print
it - twice - before believing it was real.
My hubby Todd needed to be on his game to teach all day and
evening today so Noah jumped at the chance to go with me.
Todd wasn't thrilled at that prospect, but appreciated the
historical significance and gave his blessing. My Mom worried
too, like a good Mom should, and called as we headed out to alert
us to the news that S.W.A.T. teams were reportedly at the ready in
five U.S. cities, Chicago their most pressing concern. I
myself called the windy city police and Obama's campaign three
times each to make sure no threats had been received and that
security would be stellar.
But who knew for sure?
What if someone got stupid and targeted the crowd? What
kind of mother tempts fate? As every mother of a ten-year-old
boy knows, getting him to hold your hand in public is
near-impossible. Would he give me any guff this time? Safety
aside I also wondered: what if they can't call this election
tonight? What if this thing drags on for a week? What
if Noah gets too worn-out to enjoy himself? He never did,
though. The crowd's chanting for Obama was infectious, the
night was balmy, and we scored the best seats in the
"It was awesome," Noah volunteered this morning, oddly
buoyant after a mere four hours of sleep. "I knew Obama would
be President, but it was awesome to be there."
And it was. The train was filled with people obviously
heading for the Obama rally, and their energy was electric.
We arrived in town after four p.m., when hordes of working
people rushed out of the city early, but plenty more streamed
in. Michigan Avenue had a festive atmosphere, and Obama
t-shirts and buttons were hawked on every street corner.
Afraid to pause too long for a sustaining meal, we grabbed a turkey
sandwich on our sprint from the Ogilvie train station to Grant
We arrived early enough (after being scanned by metal detectors
- I even got the 'wand' scan) to stand near enough to the podium to
have positively I.D.'d Obama when he spoke, but I knew that
Noah would never see over the crowd, let
alone last another five, six or who-knew-how-many hours
on his feet. Noah suggested that we head for the grassy
knoll we passed on our way in. Brilliant move, as we were
able to sit - sit! - the whole night (until Obama spoke, of
course), very close to the potties and to the exit, which
appealed to this Mom on oh-so-many levels.
We'd brought along paperbacks and a book of word-searches,
opting to leave Noah's heavy history book - his homework - at home
(it seemed a fair trade given the in-vivo history lesson he was to
receive instead), but people-watching and simply soaking- it- all-
in proved irresistible. He did play a few games on
my cell phone - which I had no idea was even possible, and
programmed my phone book - but he also got a fabulous lesson
on the workings of the electoral college and the relevance of the
popular vote. From time to time folks in the remarkably
amiable crowd shouted out news-outlets' projections gleaned from
their BlackBerrys and iPhones, and we cheered right along with
At Hutchinson Field we got to keep up with CNN on the jumbo
screens as all around us conversations sprang up about the import
of various swing-states' votes. Pennsylvania then Ohio
went Obama's way, but I kept reminding Noah that we just
had to wait for Virginia. I explained that for me,
Virginia's decision would be the most telling vote of all.
Not just because of its number of electoral votes, but because of
its history of slavery. It just seemed necessary that our
first black President should win-over historically 'red' Virginia,
and win it he did, earning for him the electoral votes he
needed to clinch the election. Immediately CNN
flashed the news of Obama's decisive victory and the crowd erupted,
startling me out of my struggle to make my camera perform.
I've never experienced anything like that before. It was
absolutely breathtaking. Noah enjoyed some friendly
high-fives from teary strangers and chanted right along with
the massive crowd. A priceless moment, for this Mom.
This morning I spoke to my brother, Patrick Boyle, who is a
resident of Liberty County, Georgia (reportedly named so in
deference to the fact that the county was eventually settled in
large part by freed slaves each endowed with '40 acres and a mule'
following the Civil War, as per General Sherman. After
Lincoln's assassination President Johnson revoked Sherman's orders,
returning the land to its former white owners.). Patrick says
that he was impressed by the quiet joy he witnessed in the demeanor
of the older black men and women who voted alongside him at his
polling place. They gave little cheers as they cast their
ballots for their candidate, in apparent disbelief that they even
could. This morning, NPR-Chicago featured an interview
with an elderly black woman - 106 or 109 years of age - I cannot
recall - whose father had been a slave. Her father.
That's just one generation before hers. What must this vote
mean to her? I can only imagine. She must be pinching
herself silly that her father's daughter lived to see the day that
anything is possible for a person of color. I don't think
she's alone in her jubilation. Call me crazy, but I swear
that last night I saw a whole lotta black folks walkin' taller on
their way outta Grant Park than they did walkin' in.
Perhaps it's just the poet in my heart, but I know what I
(For the record, Noah did hold my hand, and even got
his homework done before pedaling off to school this morning
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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