I didn't sleep much last night. The meager hours I caught were in bed with Jack, curled together under his Star Wars quilt atop which the Rebel Fighters try to ward off the encroaching, malicious Death Star. Ah, the eternal divide between dark and light playing out in multicolored threads above a mother holding her son close.
After a family dinner of gumbo and a We're With Her pie, Oliver went to bed early. He is little, young. For now we don't burden him with too much in the way of elections and who will vote how. It is enough now to teach him about community and humanity and how to always work to better both. He went to bed dreaming of the Minecraft Lego topping his Santa list. I think that is as it should have been.
Jack though, nearly ten-and-a-half, is politically aware and interested. He attends a Quaker school in which values of justice, equality, inclusion, stewardship, and peace are infused into the curriculum on a daily basis. They have just completed in-depth studies of The Middle East, Islam, the Electoral College and voting in America. Discussions are rich and substantive.
Jack was up watching when Clinton won the nomination. We cheered together, and he cried alongside me. I issued thanks that my children would grow up differently than I did. That no longer would a white man be the only picture in their heads of what a President looked like.
You see, I really thought Hillary would finally shatter the glass ceiling. Many have mocked me today for feeling so stunned, but stunned is precisely how I feel. I also feel deeply ashamed, sad, and worried.
Last night, Jack sat next to me on the couch, earnestly coloring in his printed-out Electoral College map as the returns came in. Tom got up for a second bowl of gumbo. Nutmeg returned home from his evening romp through our neighborhood.
We, all of us, brimmed with hope and joy. And I wanted my boy to witness it all.
I've waited my whole life for a woman like Mrs. Clinton to lead us. She's not perfect. No one is. Not one Democrat and not one Republican. She is absolutely the most qualified candidate in my lifetime. She has served Americans, haters and supporters alike, for decades.
Tom voted for her with such pride, early and enthusiastically. Since I met Tom I've known what an ardent feminist he is. He's a quiet one, as he is quiet in most all ways, but his actions and respect speak volumes.
And Jack. He exhausts me, but he is my North Star. His compass always points toward goodness. Toward justice. Toward kindness. Knowing him makes me a better person. For all the ways he is challenging to parent, he is easy. He is a deeply moral human, one who chooses love over exclusion, who always stands up for what is right.
As the night drew late, and Jack's red pencil needed sharpening while blue did not, he began to cry. "Mom," he whispered, "Will my Muslim and Mexican friends from school have to leave now?" Is that a question any child in this country should ask? No. My heart began to pinch.
The numbers kept coming in, and it struck us all that a man endorsed by no major newspapers but rather by the KKK and NRA, a man with multiple claims of sexual assault, fraud, discrimination, and racketeering issued against him, a man who has never demonstrated the slightest bit of concern for any of the poor and immigrant and female citizens of this country, a man who has spewed so much racism and divisiveness, might take the mantle of leader from President Obama, the first Black president. A man of such grace and dignity and principle may have to pass the torch to someone who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals because he could. My heart pounded.
Around 1, Jack and I got into bed. He was weepy and exhausted, and I, struggling mightily to rein in my panic and disgust and dismay, found myself wishing I'd pushed harder to tuck him in earlier. I hugged him close and promised that he was safe and that we would always share and fight for love and tolerance.
This morning, all of us bleary-eyed and exhausted, the election over, Jack asked, "Mom, what do we do?"
"Honey, all I know to do is to try and be a bright light of goodness. Will you help me?"
He hugged me tight, like a baby koala gripping its mother, and said, "Yes, Mom. That's what we'll do."
And then he walked upstairs and put on his Hillary shirt. At school, some ribbed him. "Jack, she lost. What are you still wearing that for?"
My son simply said, "Because I'm proud to. Because she would have been a good President."
I cried a lot today, y'all. I felt a great deal of fury and sadness too, and unremittingly nauseous. It was a gray and rainy Wednesday, and honestly, that felt totally appropriate.
I asked myself some tough questions and read as much as I could. I talked to friends, acquaintances, family, a number of whom feel decidedly less safe and less seen than they did yesterday. I heard confirmed reports of racist graffiti in various parts of the country, I saw women gloating about being "deplorable and proud." I'm not sure how to ingest those things. My head continues to spin and my heart continues to hurt. I don't have a lot of hope right now. I don't feel at peace.
But when I look at my sons, when I think of how Jack has handled a decision that I still struggle to handle, when I think about his tired eyes and sweet smile and how he put on that shirt and then literally put one foot in front of the other to get packed up and out of the door to school, how he left just after asking me "what is something I can do today for anyone who is sad?", I am heartened.
I think that if Hillary can stand proud, in the face of so much hatred and such searing loss, that if Jack can square his young shoulders and go forth in kindness and compassion, then I have a challenge to accept and a standard to meet. I am profoundly lucky and I don't take that for granted.
This country has a lot of work to do, and I will do all I can.