I'd been puzzling over why my emotions today felt so familiar. Twitchy optimism, cautious excitement making it hard to concentrate, trying to ignore the potentially heartbreaking outcome that you're pretty sure won't come to pass but you know could. Then I realized this is what it felt like in the days before my kids were born. So there you have it: elections and adoption have more in common than I thought.
My first election memory is from kindergarten, although I don't know if it was Election Day or Inauguration Day. I saw a news clip of Carter waving goodbye and stepping onto an airplane. My parents told me he lost the presidential contest to Regan and couldn't be president anymore. I felt sad for him.
During the next twelve years--essentially my childhood--Republicans filled the Oval Office. From my parents, I learned how to respect the office even when you don't respect the person occupying it. They took me to knock on doors during an election when I was in second grade. I stood in front of the class for Show and Tell and announced, "This weekend I went canvassing!" Twenty-four pairs of eyes stared blankly back at me. Served me right for trying to show off my new vocabulary word.
I couldn't vote in the 1992 presidential election, as I was three months shy of my eighteenth birthday. Even so, I acted like I could, wearing buttons and debating with my friends with all the enthusiasm of youth. I had embraced my inner American history nerd by that point and knew all the presidents, their years in office and the major issues facing the nation during their terms. (No, I don't remember much of it now.) I still recall the rush when Clinton won the first time, thinking, so this is what it is like to see your guy win.
Puppy woke up today knowing that it was a special day but not able to remember why. Tonight we're decorating the dinner table in red, white and blue to celebrate democracy--and hopefully the election results. At eight months and three years, my kids won't remember this election. They won't remember the way their mom had to wipe away tears whenever she saw Sen. Obama on stage with his family and saw her daughter in his girls' faces. I always thought the first non-white president would be a conservative. That it might be someone whose positions I (mostly) respect and support has been almost too much to believe.
But four years from now, they will be four and seven. Old enough to have at least a memory of who was in the White House. And eight years from now (fingers crossed), they will be eight and eleven. Old enough to maybe start to grasp what it means that a man whose race so often makes him Other in our country represented us before the world. Old enough to be shaped for the better by that fact, the way my generation was shaped for worse by the aftermath of Watergate.
I know it may seem like hubris to be talking about this now, when the election could still conceivably be lost (or stolen). But if that happens, I want to remember for myself, for them, what it felt like to be poised in this moment. Considering the very real possibility of having a president who shares so many of my values after eight years of an administration which mocked the liberties I hold most dear. Considering the possibility of a President Obama and all the significance of that.