Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Last week,  my daughter Sadie twirled around the kitchen floor while her brother Theo sang "We Shall Overcome" from his hiding place behind the laundry basket.  Along with a frayed purple princess dress, trailing tulle, she wore an expression that mingled complete seriousness, total concentration and supreme confidence.  The linoleum, lit by the the morning sun had become her stage and she belonged there.  Performing for an audience of one coffee swilling mama, Sadie was in her element, her hands traveling skyward like two graceful birds.  

Yesterday morning, our new president seemed to greet his audience of thousands with the same even certainty.  He seemed to be listening to his inner voice in the same way that Sadie, decked out in glittery wings and tiara is listening to hers.  

When I picked Theo up from school, the inauguration speech was being replayed on the radio.  
"It's Barack Obama!" Theo shouted.  "Roll down the windows!  Turn it up so everyone can hear."  I gave the volume knob a spin and felt the wind in my hair.  "This is history!" Theo shouted.  "This is history!"

Last year, when he was in kindergarten, Theo played "Man on the Bus" in a play commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.  In this play, Mr. King rode in the back of the bus with Rosa Parks and Ghandi and a group of pre-schoolers shouted "We Protest."  In the end, everyone was allowed to sit where they wanted and they all sang "We Shall Overcome."  Last year, Theo didn't really understand that King had been killed.  This year, he told me that someone threw a bomb in King's house and when that didn't work, they shot him.  Last year, he wasn't entirely clear why Rosa Parks wasn't given a seat on the bus, but this year, he understands.  

Theo is sometimes shy and sometimes exuberant.  His face is wide and his skin so pale as to be almost luminescent.  When he is nervous, he chews on the cuffs of his shirts, sometimes gnawing a hole through the fabric.  As he struggles to read, he chews a pencil.  His eyebrows come together and his jaw clenches with effort.  His body twitches, feet always shifting beneath the table, knees bouncing, fingers bending pages.  When, at last, his homework is finished, he springs out the door, ball and mitt in hand to throw and catch and throw and catch.  Looking up, squinting into the late afternoon sun, he is certain his ball will meet his glove and this certainty relaxes him.  

I'm not going to say that Obama should be honored for helping folks realize that anything is possible.  It's true, but I think if you stop to look, there are signs of that all around us at all times.  I will enjoy watching our President do the thing he seems most content to do.  He will make mistakes and bad decisions and some people will be angry and others will forgive, but at any time, it seems he will approach this job with certainty.  Just as Sadie's tiptoed feet follow each other across our linoleum, just as Theo's ball meets glove, Obama will move through the next four years in his element and that will be a pleasure to watch.  


Elizabeth said...

Yay! A new post and such a beautiful portrait of your boy and your girl and the big world around them. Thank you -- I loved every word!

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

Thank you for blogging. I can't help but wonder how my daughters' outlook and place in this world might have been altered if their childhood president had been Obama.