Today is, among other things, our third wedding anniversary.

We rang in our anniversary last night in our car, driving home from Michigan where we’d been working as poll watchers/legal monitors. We were frantically twisting the radio dial to find NPR stations as we drove down I-196 and then I-94, back to Chicago.

As we drove through Grand Rapids NPR called Pennsylvania, and we started to get guardedly optimistic. We were around Holland when they called Ohio and we started to feel pretty good. They called New Mexico, and Florida, and Virginia started to look good, and Indiana turned in the right direction, and by the time we reached the Indiana border NPR had called the election for Obama. We listened to McCain’s concession speech as we drove through Gary, and sped into Chicago as Obama was taking the stage. We parked by a friend’s house in Hyde Park, ran upstairs, and toasted with glasses of champagne as we watched the end of his speech. It was the first part of any election day coverage that we’d seen on tv.

While I feel a pang of regret that I did not get to experience the much talked-about CNN holograms, it was worth it.

In the precinct where I was working yesterday, there were 122 votes cast in the 2004 presidential election. Last night’s final count was close to 1,000. The poll worker who was running the tabulator machine asked each voter “have you done this before, do you know how the machine works?” and probably 3 out of 5 said no, they didn’t know how it worked, because it was their first time voting. Ever. Looking only at the young people and the people of color, first time voters were more like 9 out of 10. I watched people with babies strapped to their chests wrangling toddlers tangled in their legs as they voted. I saw some who were in ill health, for whom it took real effort to stand long enough to fill out their ballots. I heard a few quietly tell poll workers that they couldn’t read and needed someone to read their ballot to them. When I voted, I took my lunch break one day, walked a block to the county building, and was in and out in half an hour. These people had to work so much harder than I did to cast their ballot. And again and again, I heard them say the same thing: “this election is too important not to vote.”

I’ve gotten less than 9 hours of sleep over the past two nights. We stood for most of the 13 hours the polls were open in Michigan yesterday, subsisting on coffee and a few slices of the free pizzas Papa John’s dropped off for the poll workers. We drove more than three hours each way for less than 24 hours in Michigan.

I am, in short, exhausted. Emotions are running a little close to the surface. So you’ll forgive me for being sappy, but I’m tired and it’s my anniversary and so I’m taking this moment to say this: I feel profoundly grateful today. I’m grateful to have had the chance to witness first hand a small piece of the amazing thing our country did last night.  I’m grateful to live in a country where such things are possible.  And I’m grateful to live in it with someone who I love more than ever after almost 8 years together, someone who shares my passion for the issues that were at stake in this election, and who, like me, thinks that poll watching is an exemplary use of a vacation day. John, I should warn you now- I didn’t get you an anniversary present. (Sorry about that.) But I think somehow, even without presents, we’ll always remember our third anniversary and the pretty amazing thing we got to celebrate on the same day.

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