2000. I was 20 years old and a junior at Iowa State University in Ames. I skipped marching band practice in the afternoon to drive the hour home to Grinnell and vote. My polling place was Bailey Park, the elementary school my younger brother went to. It smelled the same as I remembered, in the way that schools always evoke scent memory for me. I was really excited to vote in my first presidential election, but I was also really excited to have a home cooked meal with my family for dinner. I drove back to Ames and settled in on a huge design project I'd procrastinated, par for the course. I stayed up all night working and listening to election results on public radio. By the time I went to sleep around 4 or 5 am, my project was done but the election was decidedly not.
2004. I was 24 years old and living in Chicago. I'd recently moved from Wicker Park to the Ukranian Village, but my polling place was still in my old neighborhood. In the morning before work I walked up Leavitt past the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a landmark I still dearly miss from my days in the city. It was snowing very lightly and I was listening to the new Kings of Convenience on my very first iPod. I remember that happy walk so clearly as if it were only a few months ago, but for the life of me I can't remember anything about what I did that evening as the results came in.
2008. I was 28 years old, living in Wheaton, and six months pregnant with my first baby. I woke up "early" at 7 am (oh, the olden days) and ate a big bowl of oatmeal and berries while watching TV news in bed. I remember still feeling that warm-oatmeal-belly feeling as I walked in the chilly morning into the polling place, the basement of a swanky retirement community a few blocks from our house. The baby was due January 17, and that night as Mike and I watched election coverage on MSNBC we wondered what it might be like if I went over my due date and our first baby was born into a world with the first black President of the United States. (And as it turns out, I did. On the day of the inauguration I had my very last prenatal appointment, the non-stress test where you sit in a room and listen to your baby's heartbeat for half an hour. I dawdled afterwards, playing hooky for a few hours so I could go home and watch the inauguration coverage before I went back to work. David was born 2 days later.)
2012. I am 32 years old and still living in Wheaton. The kids woke up early today, Norah at 5:30 and David not long afterward (damned daylight savings time), so we ate our cereal and bananas early and read a library book about animals. Mike and I took turns getting ready and by 7:30 we loaded up and headed to the polling place, still that same swanky retirement community. We were happy and excited to take the kids to vote. On the way in, David asked, "are they going to be here? do we get to see them?" and I realized he was asking about Romney and Obama. I guess we had built up voting a little too much. Sorry to disappoint kid, but this is actually going to be pretty boring for you. The lady who looked up our voter information said, "well, what beautiful children you have," and of course we agreed. David squirmed around at my feet in the election booth, and Mike filled out his ballot with one hand while holding Norah with the other. Afterwards we parted ways, MIke to work, and the rest of us home to watch Super Why and clean the house before a playdate this morning.
I'm a pretty non-political person. This election cycle has been tiresome for me and I'm discouraged by the media hysteria and the deep divides and the blatant disregards of truth and common sense. And the campaigning, oh the campaigning. It puts a twist in my stomach to think of all those millions of dollars spent that could have fed hungry people or cured sick people. But. This is the system we have, and it's better than a lot of the alternatives. So I'm happy to stand up, take part, and be counted.
Two more things. This post was inspired by my friend Jake, who wrote this thoughtful piece yesterday. Also, if you'd like to take a break from punditry and general all-caps style election day internet ranting, maybe you'd like to read this wonderful Miller Williams poem.