In 2008 I had to vote by absentee ballot because I attended a violin making convention in Portland, Oregon on election day. It was strange watching the returns on the west coast because the way things get reported from the eastern time zone everything happening on the other side of the country looks like an afterthought. Sort of like the first time I tuned in to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve from the central time zone and just got live pictures of people sweeping up Time's Square because I forgot the fun was over there by the time I finally reached midnight.
Anyway, looking back four years to the last presidential election, I have to say the most memorable moment for me was taking my kids around as part of a get out the vote effort for the Obama campaign. Ian was away on Army drill the weekend before the election and I had promised some people that I would volunteer to go door to door in our neighborhood to remind people to vote. We had flyers to leave at houses where no one was home, and when we did get real people at the door we were supposed to say, "Remember to vote!"
I thought it would be good for my kids to see that a democracy and our government is really just people. People willing to go door to door for what they believe in, and people willing to vote. Aden was six, Mona was four, and Quinn was a cold sleepy baby in stroller.
We had a fun time, the four of us, going from one house to the next and meeting people in our neighborhood and handing out flyers. But it was cold, and it got dark early, and there were only so many times my kids could say, "Remember to vote!" before it started being less fun. After getting through both sides of two really long streets we decided we had done our civic duty and it was time to go get some dinner.
But not before Mona hit a few more houses with her new and improved slogan, "Remember to goat!"
This has been a particularly contentious and stressful political cycle. I am worried and frazzled. As I cast my own vote here in a swing state, living on a street with an equal number of Romney and Obama signs on it, I just don't know what to think anymore. I'm tired of political ads and polls and robocalls and am glad they will be over. I'm confused by the fact that people I like and respect can hold political views that make no sense to me. I wonder if people who know I voted differently from them think I'm stupid or deluded and I find that disheartening. I'm concerned about what this election means for the future of my children.
But you know what has kept me sane? Thinking about a little girl, four years ago, gleefully running from door to door saying, "Remember to goat!"
That little girl survived the final Bush years. She spent the next four years with an African-American family in the White House and doesn't even know why that's a big deal. She will be interested in who wins this election primarily because she knows it matters to me. And then she will go off to school and plug away at her math and reading and play with friends and make something cool out of duct tape. She will give me hugs and make me smile and get along just fine regardless of who is president for the next four years. The truth is that as much as I obsess sometimes about large issues and grand concepts, most of my reality is all within arms reach and revolves around topics neither candidate can touch. Helping Mona with her homework while cuddled together on the couch will continue to happen regardless of how this election goes. I will try to do my best for her and all my kids, and that will not change. Certain decisions from the top could make some choices harder or easier for us, but will not impact our walks around the block, how we make pancakes, or how cute our dog is.
The big picture is important. But so is the little one.
Remember to goat.