I called my great-niece while Mike and I were standing in line last night. Anita is 13 years old. Her father is from Jamaica. Her mother (my blonde-haired, blue-eyed niece Janet) raised Anita on her own. “Remember the part of that video Obama showed at the convention?” I asked Anita. “You know, where his mom woke him up at 4:30 in the morning to go over his spelling words before she went off to work? That reminds me of you and your mom when you were little.” I could sense Anita rolling her eyes. She is a teenager, after all. “Who knows?” I said. “Maybe you’ll be president someday!”
Mike and I were in line at least an hour longer after making that phone call to Anita last night — we were waiting to get into the Barack Obama rally in Grant Park, just four blocks away from our apartment. Hanni watched the election returns from home. There was a heavy police presence around the rally, of course — especially on horses. More than once Mike had to route me around a big pile of dung! In keeping with that theme, we staked out a spot near an oversized handicapped portapotty once we made it into Grant Park.
After using that lovely facility, I was approached by a rally official. “You know, you can stand over there if you want.” I looked at Mike, who explained that the official was pointing to a wide wooden ramp for people in wheelchairs. We moved there, which meant Mike could see the stage. Two older African-American women were standing next to us; they were with a friend in a wheelchair. The women were spunky. I mean, they were having fun, calling friends on their cell phones and all that, But at the same time they were pretty serious. They didn’t want all the pageantry to let them forget how important this day was.
The crowd was huge, but mellow. Kids were texting, calling their friends, and constantly checking their iPhones for updates. “It’s like Woodstock,” Mike said. “Except instead of drugs, people are using electronic devices!”
When they announced from the Jumbotrons that Virginia had gone for Obama, the crowd went crazy. People started chanting “Yes We Can, Yes We Can!” And a short while later, when the words “Barack Obama Elected President” flashed on the Jumbotron screens, the atmosphere was ecstatic. No one had to read the screen aloud for me – I knew. Jubilation. People laughing and cheering. Friends and strangers hugging and crying. Very, very fun and energizing and well, I’ll say it: inspirational. I mean, being around all those people who had voted or volunteered or just cared enough to trudge downtown to Chicago to be there…wild!
We stayed to hear Obama’s speech, and as we waited, they played recorded music over the loudspeakers. The first song was ”Signed, Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. I was dancing! After that they played some country western song I’d never heard before. I thought that was very funny. “He really is trying to unite *all* of us,” I told Mike. A couple more tunes, then “Sweet Home, Chicago” and then, drumroll, please…”The next First Family of the United States of America” — Barack and family got on stage. The crowd roared. Obama spoke. People cried.
After the speech, we walked along with others moving slowly and happily out of Grant Park -– we practically floated across Michigan Avenue, which was magically closed to traffic for the night. T-shirt and button sellers were everywhere, especially near Michigan Avenue. We picked out a t-shirt for Anita. I’ll give it to her this afternoon, when Hanni and I head out to Elmhurst to celebrate over a glass of wine with my mom and sister –- Anita’s Great Grandmother and Grandma.
Janet emailed me this morning to thank me for calling them from the rally. “The phone call really stuck with Anita,” she said. The first thing Anita asked Janet when they woke up this morning was whether Janet still had her “I voted” sticker. When Janet said she did, Anita asked, “Can I have it?” .