There are very few people in the world for whom my husband will get out of bed at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. But when I mentioned Friday afternoon that Barack Obama was going to hold a rally outside the Mayfair Diner, which happens to be 3 blocks from his mother's home in the neighborhood he grew up in, Big Daddy didn't even hesitate before saying, "Absolutely, we'll go!"
So I roused Sweet Boy from his angelic (sweaty and drooly) slumber at 6:00 this morning and hustled him into his clothes, telling him we were going for a ride to Nana's house to see a very important and exciting man. And he responded, "Is he gonna bring us breakfast?" Well, no, but I promise you, kiddo, it'll be even better than pancakes.
We got to Mayfair around 7:00 and Sweet Boy and I joined the line of thousands while Big Daddy took the car to his mom's house to park. We didn't see him again until we were through the security gate an hour later because he got swept away in the throngs that flooded Cottman Avenue. It was a generally subdued crowd (what do you expect so early in the morning?) but there was a palpaple buzz of energy. Even Sweet Boy knew something big was going on -- it must be a special day if mommy lets me sit on a city sidewalk, pick up pennies from the cracks, and eat a donut from a stranger!
(Believe it or not, this was Sweet Boy's second Democratic presidential rally...but for the first one he was a mere cluster of cells in my belly. That was the day I attended the Kerry rally in center city four years ago that I realized I quite possibly was pregnant, as the waves of nausea just wouldn't let up.)
This rally was the most organized event I think I've ever attended. I had no idea that a few thousand people could be so well behaved -- we all just walked calmly through the security checkpoint and metal detectors, chattering and laughing and occasionally chanting "O-ba-ma!" My only moment of anxiety came when we got to the metal detectors, though, because they were moving people through so quickly that Sweet Boy and I got separated; even though he was only about 5 feet away from me, with so many people around we both got nervous when our hands came apart. But the officer at the metal detector noticed, and he held Sweet Boy's hand and kept him (and me) calm while I went through security and collected my belongings.
Big Daddy found us pretty quickly, which is good because the anxiety started to surge again as I realized just how tightly packed we were going to be; I had a moment of "oh crap, I can't carry this boy by myself for very long." However, this is one of the only times I love being a Tall Girl, when I'm in a large crowd. I can see over just about every head, and when I put my kid on my shoulders, you can spot us from two blocks away. We got a great spot, right around the center of the crowd, and we had a great view of the podium.
Before the speakers started, a little boy led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. I haven't said these words in years, probably since my graduation ceremony. And I have never felt chills when I said them. Standing in that crowd, hearing that little boy's voice above the others and holding my own little boy in my arms, I fought tears. I thought of why we were there, I looked around and noticed the hodge-podge of skin colors, the mix of blue collar, white collar, retired, struggling, and well-off -- I realized we were standing on the verge of history. I thought of my mom, as I so often do, and I knew she would have loved to be there by my side. I think she always dreamed of this day, and I really wish she could have seen it. She would have been proud of us, of this city, of this country.
Obama soon took the stage with my favorite U2 song playing -- I love it that this man plays U2, Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder at all his rallies -- and we all went berserk. But people want to hear his words, so they settle down very quickly and pay attention. Sweet Boy made it almost all the way through Obama's speech -- he was so tired! -- but started to really lose it when the chanting began. I very calmly looked in his eyes and said "Sweetie, I'm sorry you're upset, but there's nothing to be scared of. It's happy yelling. Exciting. Mommy and Daddy are right here, not going anywhere, and this is a very important day for us. So stop crying. Now." In other words, no way, Jose, are we leaving now!
Obama's speech was fantastic, as always, goosebump-inducing and poignant. The man just fills me with so much optimism -- it's almost too much, though, and I find myself sometimes thinking, "Is this possible? Can he do these things that he's talking about?" I've decided to believe. A few months ago I hadn't yet heard him say anything substantial about his plans as President, but I think we have all seen him come into his own as a leader. He's much more than an orator these days; I feel like he really is ready to go.
And I tell you what, today he said some things that really knocked my socks off. Beyond the all-consuming economic stuff, bigger than the healthcare initiative, and more powerful than ending the war, he talks about giving back to our country. All of us. Volunteering our time and working for the greater good. Fixing the fundamental problems in our schools and in our communities, the little things that chip away at our foundation. Ensuring that our children have a real shot at amazing futures. He restores my faith in this country, he reminds me that there's more to us than uberconsumerism, and he helps me to remember how much potential there is here. He makes me want to be a better American.
It's not often that I feel like a cool mom, but today was definitely a cool-mom day. I took my kid to a political rally! I am so glad we decided to do this instead of pumpkin picking. (Oh, by the way, we did take Sweet Boy for his pancakes afterward...he deserved a mountain of pancakes!)
Just before bedtime this evening, while watching the football game, an Obama ad came on and Sweet Boy said "Look mom, it's Barack Obama! I know him!" And I hope someday we will look at the photos we took and say, "Remember, buddy? This is the day we saw President Obama speaking in Nana's neighborhood." Again, I choose hope.