On the street today, I ran into a different Alice from the one who helped me with Halloween. This Alice lives in another building here at Morningside Gardens in Harlem. Though we'd only met on Election Night, we immediately rushed to embrace. That's how it is in the City. We want to hold onto our Election Night thrill.
Invited to an Obama party at an apartment two floors below. Barbara and Lee have one of those very big, on the wall TV screens. Ron made guacamole...but no Barackolate Chip Cookies s Earlier in the day I delighted a woman working at the campaign office by giving her the recipe. Our hosts always have a great spread, and it's a very comfortable place. We were a small group. Five of us were knitting off and on. Lisa, usually very animated, was more contemplative. We mostly watched ABC because that's what's on their Basic Cable. Huge crowds in Times Square--so different from those on New Year's Eve.
When the big moment came, the really big one, when it was set in stone, we were beyond ourselves. Alice and Lisa who have been friends for 35 years started the hugging (that's Barbara with Lisa) and we went around the room alternately hugs and high-fives. Lisa called her 95 year old grandfather who lives in the South. No "Hello" from him, just "Obama!" And the faces we watched on the screen.
The big screen was perfect for a sense of the crowd in Chicago's Grant Park. We joked around about whether we could see Lisa's husband, a photographer for the New York Times, near the stage. Then we listened to McCain concede. Some thought he was gracious; I find him unredeemable for the way he betrayed who he'd been in the name of his ambition.
Watching Obama was something else entirely. You have your own memory of the man, so I will let you fill in here. We were so proud, loved seeing his family and Biden's. He was so respectful of us, reminded that we need to make a commitment to, as Tom Brokaw said, "a re-enlistment of citizenship." We became aware of much noise down, from outside. Looked out the windows at Grant Houses, the public housing complex across the street. Shouting, pots and pans banging, but this was a bigger noise.
We left to go to the street, picked up Lisa's daughter at the next door apartment where she was watching with another family and and a group of her under-12 year old friends. People were coming from all directions moving toward 125th Street. A few blocks away a stage and Jumbotron had been set up. It was a little cooler than we'd expected so we returned to Barbara and Lee's.
Alice told me today that they could not get near the stage but could see the crowd from a higher spot. She was struck by the mix--black longtime residents of every age, white families who've moved to Harlem, Asians (many are grad students at Columbia University).
That was the evening. Very tired, I dragged Ron back to our place just as he was about to invite Sally, the knitter with the huge needles, to see his spinning wheel. Of course, I was also over-excited. Election Day I'd carried my "good luck" canvas bag all day.
America had changed in a very large and good way. I'd lived through segregated schools and lunch counter sit-ins in 1940s St. Louis, disapproving stares when dating black men in 1950s New York City, and numbing racism in late 20th century Baltimore.
This day was what I'd hoped for. I know there's less euphoria ahead; I want to savor these moments longer.