Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Women Bring All Voters Into the World

Unlike most people, I know the exact moment I first considered that a woman could be president.

It was in 3rd grade and it was during reading group that my teacher, Mrs. Gettle, brought up the subject of a woman as President. To my 8-year old brain, it didn't seem all that far-fetched, so when she told us to go home and ask our mothers what they thought of a woman President, I did.

I walked home from school (the norm then, but now considered "free-range parenting"), set my lunchbox on the counter and got busy on my assignment.

First, however, allow me to set the scene for you. My Mom, like all the mothers I knew back then, stayed at home to raise us and that was back during a time when mothers made their own formula, washed and dried their own baby diapers and cooked from scratch. I also had five sisters.

When I was in 3rd grade, I had a sister in 2nd grade, another in 1st grade, one that was 4, one that was 2 and a newborn baby sister. In retrospect, I'm amazed that Mom even took the time to answer my question, but she did.

It went something like this: "Karen, I can't imagine a woman being President because of all the other stuff she already has to do. She wouldn't have time to run the country!"

Dutifully, I reported her answer to my reading group the next day. The consensus from mothers was mostly negative, but Mrs. Gettle steered the discussion to the possibilities of such a thing in our lifetimes.

Flash forward to 2008 when Hillary and Obama were contenders and I brought up that conversation with my parents, causing my Mom to laugh and shake her head. No surprise she'd answered that way, she told me, given how far down the rabbit hole of old school motherhood she was at that point.

My Dad sat in his chair chuckling.

"Of course a woman could be President," my screaming liberal, politics-obsessed mother chided me. "I was just too busy with you girls to consider such a thing back then. I can't believe you remember that!"

So it was with that memory in mind that my clothes for today's historic election included a white t-shirt (because white was the color of the women suffragettes) that reads, "I Dream..."

At Carver Elementary where I vote, the long, serpentine waiting lines of 2008 and 2012 were replaced with people waiting to vote not in lines but sitting in the school auditorium's pint-sized chairs. On one side of me were three generations of a family, including one woman who'd gone to Carver. All were voting Hillary.

On the other was a young woman who'll graduate from VCU in December, with plans to teach elementary school in the city. I couldn't resist sharing with her how thrilled I was to finally get to vote for a woman for President, a fact which seemed like a far lesser deal to her, undoubtedly because of her age.

I shared how nervous I'd been about voting in my first election, somehow thinking I'd screw it up. She admitted to her own concerns about that and asked for direction on some of the down-ballot candidates. When I got called to the booth, I left her with a mantra: "Girl power!"

On my walk afterward, an older man on Marshall Street asked how I was. I'm great because I got to vote for a woman for President today, I told him and he smiled hugely, raising his fist in the air in the style of black activists. My fist followed.

Closer to home, a friendly repairman headed to his work van said hello, glanced at my shirt and asked, "You dream of what?"

This day. This opportunity to use my vote to elect a woman who not only has the time to run a country but a woman's mind and heart.

Thank you, Mrs. Gettle (wherever you are), for raising the possibility in a little girl's head.

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