In my lifetime I have moved more times than most people would even consider possible or normal. If you have read my blog for a while you know that my husbands job kept us moving around the country for several years as he worked his way up the company ladder and furthered his career. When we were given an opportunity to come to the DC area we jumped at the chance to live so close to a historical city, community and region of the United States.
With each move there were regrets and disappointments; I had skipped or chosen not to take full advantage of the areas in which we lived. A few moves back I promised myself that I would not let that happen again. I have drug my kids to more museums, parks and events than they like to recount in their short years on earth. I worry that they may be burned out on the adventure and explorative spirit of our human nature because we have done so much of it already.
In November when President Obama won his second term, our family committed to traveling into DC to witness the inauguration. It had nothing to do with party favoritism, loyalty or my political views. It was about sharing with my kids what their freedom to vote was all about. I wanted them to see the process of swearing in a President of the United States. It is important for my husband and I that my kids understand the process of electing a president so that when the time comes for them to vote, it is more than standing in line and placing a check in a box.
This last election we followed every debate, every interview and news report. We valued the opportunity that we had to listen and to hear the sides that each party favored and addressed. Some things we agreed on and some things we did not. What happened during this time, is that we became invested in our views. We watched and discovered that other families and individuals shared our point of view, our thoughts about certain subjects; it unified us to a cause and a group of people.
As the months went by and January 21st got closer and closer, I started to get nervous. I was entering and committing to something I had no idea of what to expect. It turned out that my husband was not going to have a chance to go with us. Crowds have never been my favorite thing and I knew this crowd would be like no other that I had ever experienced. The closest experience I had to compare it to, was when we went to NYC a week before Christmas of last year. I was right and wrong about a few things in comparing the two events.
I was nervous of losing Rye in the crowd so every once in a while we would point out specific places we would meet if our hands became unlocked. First it was the castle and then it was the purple flag hanging from the Natural History Museum.
We walked hand and hand or arm in arm the whole day. WOW, I had not done that for years with her. She must have been 5 or 6 years old; as she aged she became more and more independent and could walk by herself, listening as we instructed her to stay by our side. It was a day I won't soon forget.
Along with getting lost or separated I was afraid of the crowd. I was afraid of a riot, a disgruntled person; this sounds silly but it was a genuine fear that I had. I was worried that we would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is something that we experienced in NYC, impatient holiday shoppers who reacted to being tired and frustrated with the masses of people.
Was I ever wrong!
Saturday night I came so close to canceling the trip. I begged it to rain--I said if it rained we would not go--so that I could sleep through my alarm and not face the unexpected. The knot in my stomach was growing and the anxiety was rising. I talked to Cory that night and he convinced me that we should go.
He was right.
I changed my attitude from one of fear and not wanting to go, to an appreciation and gratitude of being able to go. I was one of the lucky ones to live so close that I could take my daughter and see this historical event. I had the choice to brave the cold and the crowds; a choice that many others living outside of the US do not always have living in foreign countries. Times are changing and more and more countries are following a voting system but it takes time to change a culture and thought process. Ours is not perfect, but for the most part we don't have much to fear by voting. I needed this experience, I just did not know it at the time.
We decided to leave our home at 8am and take our chances that we would get there and be able to hear and see everything from one of the many wide screens and speakers they had set up on the mall. As we arrived to the train station, and boarded the Metro, my excitement started to mount. In that moment, I was so glad that I came and brought Rye. I knew that this would be a day that we would both cherish and reflect on as the years passed by.
We exited the train and were immediately stopped due to the line to get out of the tunnels. We stood in line for almost an hour, shoulder to shoulder, with people of all walks of like, colors of skin and values; some smiling, many laughing and some stoic. There were young children, teenagers, husband and wives, grandparents and every person in between. We were all there for our own reasons, and yet, we were all there because of a common value and belief system.
This tugged at my heart. I have never been involved in a march of any kind. I knew that we were not marching for a cause; we were standing together in our beliefs. Some of those beliefs that a few years ago, and even further back than a few years, we would not have been permitted. The tears were so close to falling on several occasions as I looked around and thought to myself of how proud I was to be an American at that moment.
Leaving the subway was a breath of fresh air-literally! The Metro was stuffy and hot. We immediately found ourselves in the crowd making our way towards the Mall. We walked for a long time to finally be told we could turn right and start entering the grassy lawn that stretched for quite a distant in both directions.
Within seconds of my feet touching the green grass, I cried. Silently I wept with tears running down my cheeks. It was a moment that my emotions overcame me to such a degree that I could not hold back. I think my tears were a mix of gratitude and love. My heart was full as I looked around and saw the faces of so many individuals and families. Women that had fought for the vote; every color of skin was represented; all types of couples and families--we were all together, standing side by side.
This feeling and the tears would bubble up off and on that entire day. The love I felt for people I did not even know, was incredible. I wanted to hug everyone. I did not though, that would have really embarrassed my daughter (she is still a teenager).
Our spot to stand on the Mall will forever be engrained into my memory. We were about 50 feet from the carrousel; on the side closest to the Congress building next to the Castle. We had a clear view of the building, the five flags hanging down, the dome and the statue on top. With the help of the large speakers and large screens we were able to watch with perfect ease to those addressing the crowd, the swearing in, President Obama's speech and the music. Kelly Clarkson did an amazing job, as did the other performers.
To see the crowd was amazing and as hard as I tried to capture the perfect picture of the thousands of people in attendance, it was impossible unless you could get up tall enough and look down. Almost one million people strong. We never heard a single cackle or harsh word. My daughter and I were treated with respect, kindness and love from all those patrons in our immediate area. We laughed with our neighbors, smiled and hugged.
When it was over, I knew that I had been fed a feast. My heart was full. I had witnessed a part of history in the making.
Sitting at home and watching the news, it is hard to believe that I was there, quite literally in the middle of that massive crowd.
I told my husband that if we should leave this area, I will have known that I experienced one of the greatest events that our nation has, the swearing in of a President. Regardless of where you stand on policy or party association, we should be able to agree, that our right to vote and to choose is something we all have in common and can freely do; if, we but take the time to do it.