Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Big Day, January 20, 2009

Prompt: Write about how you're spending Inauguration Day and any thoughts you have about past inaugurations.

1 comment:

Jill Hudgins said...

Change

Awaken to snow, flurries tumbling down, somersaulting onto a three-inch mat. Should I run? I make tea, Kenyan chai with whole milk, real sugar, and sip. Check the news – web, television – and wait. Inauguration Day in DC, snow in NC.

My mother’s there, sister too. Somewhere in the two-mile space between Obama’s palm on the Lincoln Bible and the Washington Monument reaching high. I wonder which side of the reflecting pool. I sip and watch and wait. Tune into my favorite at ABC, George Stephanopoulos, who offers historical trivia. It’s the first time the incoming offered the outgoing a gift. I wonder what’s in Michelle’s box to Laura. Chocolates?

There are rituals and formalities, processions of important folks entering at measured intervals, announcements and pause. People clapping, chants of Obama, my first tear. I see the Bush twins, but no Chelsea. Did I miss her, or is she elsewhere? And then the new girls, Malia and Sasha, dressed respectively in blue and pink. Michelle’s in yellow. I remember many had wondered what, or more specifically, whom she would wear. Isabel Somebody. Not that I know a thing about fashion.

More waiting, my tea gets cold. I should call my mother, sister. I do; they don’t answer. I wonder how close they got, how early they left, how cold their hands and feet. I’m a little envious, but at least I’m warm, inside my NC home, outside snow still tumbling.

I call Kenya, a friend. Malaria, fever, still the meds not working, still no sleeping. He’s going back to the hospital, then home, hopefully in time to catch the address. A great day for America, he says, Kenya, the world. Don’t miss a minute, he tells me, of History.

Aretha walks up big bow on the hat, big voice in the mall. More tears. Biden is sworn in, Yo Yo Ma plays his cello, and then Obama. Chief Justice Roberts goofs the word order, Obama waits, gathers, begins again. Success: a new President of the United States of America. A new day – January 20, 2009. A solemn address. Prayers.

And a poem: Elizabeth Alexander, Praise Song for the Day. Beautiful, ends in love: “Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.” Poised, perfect, the day – minus the Roberts’ slip-up – as planned.

Then a collapse. Or two. Media experts unsure. Kennedy or Byrd? Byrd or Kennedy or both? Reports trickle in, minute by minute more information. A seizure, convulsions, disturbing to those who saw: Kennedy. Distress, slumped over his dessert, but then okay, no hospital visit: Byrd. Why today? Now?

Sentiments settle and the parade begins. I resume my day-to-day, make sure to give Mother’s cat her Paxil and arthritis meds, some company too. A historic day, like any other, full of power and possibility and the simple mundane tasks of making tea, paying bills, work, pick up around the house, change. Change can happen any second of any day. But this one – noontime Inauguration – feels rife.

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