Wednesday night before heading to bed, Noah came downstairs
wearing a t-shirt commemorating the night Obama was elected
"Mom, you gotta wear your shirt. It's the anniversary," he
reminded me, of the night he and I will never forget.
Along with an estimated quarter-million other fans of history who
poured into Chicago's Grant Park on that unusually balmy November
night, we got to hear Obama make his victory speech in
person. I still can't believe we were there to see it happen
- to feel it happen, alongside so many.
Millions wanted those free tickets to Hutchinson Field, and I'd
been put on the notorious waiting list along with them. But
the eve of the election my ticket arrived in my e-mail in-box,
valid for me and one guest. I couldn't believe my luck!
My hubby, Todd, needed to be on his game at work the day after the
election, so Noah jumped at the chance to tag along instead.
I was thrilled at the prospect of sharing such a significant
moment with my son, but had my worries. As every mother of a
ten-year-old boy knows, getting him to hold your hand in public is
darned-near impossible, and what if someone got stupid and targeted
the crowd? I called the windy city police and Obama's
campaign headquarters three times each to make sure no threats had
been received and that security would be stellar, but who could
know for sure? What kind of mother tempts fate, I wondered?
I also worried the election wouldn't be settled right away.
What if Noah became too worn-out to enjoy the experience? He
never did, though. The crowd's chanting for Obama was
infectious, the weather was made-to-order, and we scored the best
seats in the house.
"It was awesome," Noah volunteered the next morning, oddly buoyant
after a mere four hours of sleep. "I knew Obama would be
President, but it was awesome to be there."
Awesome it was. The train into town was filled with people
obviously heading to Grant Park, and their energy was
electric. We arrived as hordes of working people rushed out
of the city, 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, Noah and I settled for turkey sandwiches to-go so
we could sprint from the train station to the park.
We got through security early enough to stand in Hutchinson field
surprisingly near to the stage, but I knew that Noah wasn't tall
enough to see over the crowd, let alone last another six- plus
hours on his feet. He suggested we head for the grassy knoll
we passed on our way in, a brilliant idea. We were able to
sit - sit! - the entire night (until the results came in, of
course), very close to the potties and 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 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 later 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.
Noah cheered when Ohio followed Pennsylvania into the Obama
column, but 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
the electoral votes he needed to clinch the election.
Immediately, CNN proclaimed the news of Obama's decisive victory
and the crowd around us erupted, startling me out of my struggle to
make my old camera perform.
I've never experienced anything like Obama's election win
before. Our political persuasion aside, there was something
simply magical about witnessing the joy of so many and the
knowledge that Noah had felt it, too. With me by his side, my
son got to share in uninhibited high-fives with teary strangers and
chant right along with the jubilant throng of revelers as they
celebrated in Grant Park, spilled into the glittering streets of
Chicago and danced all the way back to the train station.
Priceless memories, for this Mom.
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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