Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Monday
    Aug092010

    One Day in November

    "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." ~Anne Lamott

    Once someone told me that "you can't spin hope". And I quoted it for months with a snicker. 'Hope' isn't part of the party platform. I've read the party platform and next to 'improving public education' it doesn't say 'dream big' with little unicorns and a heart instead of a dot above the lowercase i. I find myself to be a generally cynical person and pragmatic. The glass is never half full or half empty it's just a glass with water for me to quench my thirst. Which is why when 'hope' was used as a catalyst for people to throw their cautions to the wind and vote for 'change', I scoffed and guffawed and remained a non-believer.

    There was no push or drive during the last two years, I was just going through the motions of electing a President whose platform most aligned with my ideals. That is until last night when my coworker, Ben, a man old enough to think that he would never see the Berlin Wall come down, started to tell me a story that I had been dying to hear. I was already for the The Drama when out of the corner of my eye I saw something that made me stop everything. It's rare that I'm at a loss for words or that when something exciting or monumental happens that I'm not shouting from the rooftops. I turned to Ben and politely said to him, "Barack Obama is the President". He just stared back at me and said "Wait. What?"

    "I think that Barack Obama is the President".

    He stopped the story that I was so dying to hear to turn around and look at the television screen with me. You know those moments that are forever etched in your mind? Those moments when you remember exactly how you were standing, which way the moon was facing and the color of the chipped nail polish on your fingers? Those moments? It's just that...it isn't everyday that I stand in a room full of people, put my head down and my hands on my knees and feel everything inside of me collapse and then cry. Two minutes later Ben went back to telling me the story and I stopped him to say, "Yeah, whatever you're going to say is going to be boring as shit compared to this". But he told me anyway.

    I called my father later and he was far too quiet than usual. Not the normal banter and telling me that I'm adopted but he was quiet and thoughtful. If you grow up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, you can never really prepare yourself for raising children in the suburbs of Upstate NY. You probably don't envision your black son and daughter discussing political science and supply side economics and the LSATS and their white peers as if they were common place. And you sure as shit don't ever bring yourself to really push your mind to pursue the possibility of a black man living in the White House.

    But you hope. I hope for a lot of things. That my check clears or that a pair of perfect shoes are available in my size or that one day I'll be able to fit into my favorite dress again. I hope that the Giants win this weekend and I hope there's more wine. I'm neither sentimental nor idealistic, but yeah, sometimes I hope. We all hope every single day because it's what gets us up in the morning: That hope that things will be better or just as good as the day before. That hope that whatever we are working towards - either alone or as a people - will go well and get better. It's just that on any given day we don't realize how much we hope because we never outwardly say it because it's just a little too trite and rainbows and kittens to say that you spend your days hoping. Though I think it's human nature and catching to see one person be optimistic and so it's hard to avoid that drug of good feeling.

    So would you like to know what my first thoughts were last night? After the tears and my father. It was of my friends, Leah and Simon, and then of every other parent I know that has young children. But Leah and Simon especially because they're having a baby in six weeks and their baby will never know of anything different than having a black president it will be natural to him and forever be a grip on my heart and something that I remember vaguely thinking about. Just as it will always be baffling to my father that Garrett and I have always experienced integration (its ups and its harsh, harsh downs) as it's always been natural to us but a grip on his heart.

    There are these little tiny babies who will always think of this - what just happened - as ordinary. And they will have that luxury and life because one day in November several million of us chose to lean on the idea of hope a little more than we had in days, weeks and months prior. It was one day in November when we said we could and so we did. We hoped and then we changed.
    « Just a Thought | Main | Finish Line »

    Reader Comments (2)

    Love this. I was with my mom and dad on election night and they were being so negative I had to flee. I called my friend and went by the market and the WHOLE champagne shelf was empty except for one lonely expensive bottle, which I bought and went and laughed and cried and celebrated with her.

    January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

    I got chills from reading this. My daughter was born two weeks after the '08 election, and my husband and I felt the same way you describe: our daughter will never know it as anything different to have a black president. (Though, it will be our job to teach her how extraordinary it was in that moment.) Now that we're back in an election year, and fear grips me for what might happen next, I think of the awe and wonder of that '08 November day.

    January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoberta

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