To Vote With Wet Eyes

I drove to Town Hall for early voting through a fall mist, using my not-quite-yet-caffeinated brain to rewrite the lyrics of popular songs with a “nasty woman” theme. Then I started choreographing dances to accompany the songs, imagining that I would share them with friends.

The comedic mood ended as I pulled into a a side street to park. I frequently compare grief to a black bird flying over your head, casting a dark cold shadow. But this strange wave was was different. It came from within.

I saw women from old archival footage with signs, their faces too blurry to remember. Their marching strides contrasting sharply with long skirts and lace. Mocked, heckled, derided, marching for the right to vote, to control their own bodies, to work for equal pay. Faces. Margaret Chase Smith. Elizabeth Dole.

I saw me. A swirling sore memory of being mocked, shut out, humiliated, ignored, passed over. My first boss running his hands up and down my body, and all I could do was run when I heard his voice.

Then it struck me. I am here to vote for a woman for president. Yes, I knew this months ago with my brain, but not with my heart. Over the years, it has become unacceptable to talk “feminism,” so I buried the memories, the hurt, the anger, and maybe even the dreams.

And I just wiped myself off and moved on, sometimes haltingly, but always giving it (whatever it was at the time) all I had. So many years in business, and I never did quite make it to vice president. My fault maybe. Maybe not, and I will never know.

In the line to get a ballot, there was an older woman in front of me. Her long grey hair braided in the back, she was small and fragile. “You’re not on the voters list,” said the woman running a ruler down the list of registered voters. “It must be some time since you voted.” The would-be voter gave a weak nod. Another poll worker escorted her upstairs.

“I have tears in my eyes,” I told the the woman as she looked for my name. “I know,” she said. “That happened to me.”

I looked for a booth with good light so I could take an historic picture. I pressed the black flair hard on the dot to the right of Clinton-Kaine, because somehow the black dot wasn’t dark enough or big enough. Then I snapped a shot with my iPhone.

Back in the car bound for work through the shards of orange leaves, the tears lingered. I kept thinking that there was something familiar about the line of voters handing in their ballots. Did I meet them before? Maybe in a campaign or a protest. With the exception of one person, they were all women.

At work I started talking. The younger women were shocked about my first-boss story. Then I remembered I’d better shut up. I moved on to my nasty woman songs, and they gladly joined in.

It was not an everyday, but an historic day, ending for me with a lesson, a conclusion, a blessing. In the end, and it could take a long time to get there, people who brush the mud off their faces and keep going prevail. No matter who wins this election, I think we p—–ies have won with nothing given, everything earned. And God bless and protect the U.S. Constitution for making it so.

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