Tuesday, November 08, 2016

November 8, 2016--Ladies of Forest Trace: Election Day

They are no longer with us.

All the Ladies of Forest Trace, my mother and her friends, have moved on. But if there is a way for them to watch from their undisclosed location, through the day today, and especially this evening, they will be tuned in to Anderson Cooper (who they all thought is "adorable") to watch the vote tallies, especially in Florida, because the outcome of the election may again come down to "Florida, Florida, Florida," and some of the Ladies feel they still have some expiating to perform considering it was they as well as many other ladies of South Florida who, in 2000, either mistakenly voted for the anti-Semite Pat Buchanan or hang enough chads on their paper ballots to give the election to George W. Bush.

The rest is history. Sad history.

I know that today, with the opportunity to vote for the first woman to have an excellent chance of becoming our president, that would have been a highlight of all of their very-long lifetimes. My mother would be the oldest of the Ladies--she would be half-a-year more than 108 today--but all of her friends would be old enough to remember vividly when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, August 18, 1920, when my mother was 12 years old. In her day, she and other girls were very much women at 12, in my mother's case having been born in a log cabin in the Polish woodlands.

All of the Ladies were disappointed in 2008 not to have had Hillary Clinton as the nominee, having lost in a bitter primary struggle with Barack Obama, but to a person they all came around to feeling good about voting for him because of his progressive views, his ability to promulgate hope, and not incidentally because he was African American. And most lived long enough to enthusiastically vote for him again four years later.

But today is different, very different.

I know that my mother and most of her friends had some "issues" with Hillary. They may have liked many of Bill Clinton's governing priorities but they thought little about his suitability as a husband. Some of the Ladies had issues with their own long-departed husbands and from that they knew a cad when they saw one.

But sharing this with Hillary they understood the impulse they felt to endure, to put up with what most younger women today would not tolerate. But they all lived long enough to understand the behavior and compromises expected of their generation, Hillary's, and of much younger women, who they over time successfully struggled to feel good about.

They also saw Hillary's flaws in her various official roles as First Lady, senator, and secretary of state.  Most were alive for all of that and had the experience and enough accrued wisdom not to deceive themselves because of her gender or feminism. But they saw the same falabilities, or worse, among Hillary's contemporaries and colleagues. These Ladies were not about gilding lilies or for that matter anything. They may not have had the exact words to express this but they were individually and personally viable in the world of very realpolitik.

And so through the day today, one by one they would have stood in line bent over their walkers, declining the offered wheelchairs or help to shuffle to the head of the line.

They had waited more than 80 years for this.

They had stood on many lines over the many decades--at dockside in Bremen, Germany to board the ship that would transport them to America, on lines at Ellis Island, on lines to file citizenship papers, on other lines when food was scarce during the Depression or rationed during the War, on lines while waiting at their children's schools, on lines at heath clinics, on lines in some cases to secure applications for scarce jobs or to apply for subsidized housing, on lines too many to count that led them to pay respects at the caskets of too-many-to-count friends and family members.

So, I know they would have thought today--"This is one final line I want to stand on because I've been waiting all my life to stand on a line to a polling booth where I can vote to make a woman president of the United States."

Then, after lingering with the ballot on which Hilary Clinton's name appears, with tears and pride, they would cast that magical vote and head home to Forest Trace for a nap so they could stay awake late enough tonight to see Florida, Florida, Florida seal the victory for Hillary.

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