All the Feelings

Today is my youngest child’s 14th birthday. As we live in the suburbs of DC, inauguration day is always a school holiday for us so I’m sitting here with my 17 and 14 year olds watching the inauguration on C-SPAN. Four years ago, on my child’s 10th birthday, we did all we could to ignore the inauguration. That was the birthday wish and we were happy to honor it. The next day, we marched with family members, another birthday wish we honored without hesitation. All the feelings.

There are lots of feelings about my youngest turning 14. My active role as parent is diminishing daily. It’s shifting noticeably all the time. I wouldn’t change that for the world, but it doesn’t mean it is easy. The weight a parent feels when it comes to giving their children all they can and helping their children become the best they can be is immense. The joy in watching your child grow into far more than you ever dreamed possible is also immense. All the feelings.

And then, it is inauguration day. November 2016 was surreal. It was a step in opening my eyes to what our country really is. The past four years have been horrifying. But not just because of what has happened in those four years. Also because of the growing understanding, for me, of what our country’s history has truly been and what it truly is still today. There is still much I don’t see, I am sure. I am actively working on that, working to see without rose colored glasses or deliberate ignorance. It is ongoing work. All the feelings.

Neither Biden nor Harris were my top picks in the primary. I can see the ways Joe Biden falls short when it comes to the beliefs and actions that will move us towards a truly inclusive, equitable society. But I like him. His personal story resonates. Dr. Jill Biden is someone I respect, even as I know she, too, has flaws. They are a first couple I can trust and respect and who give me hope. He takes office at a terrible time. The job ahead of him is a mountain that may be unsurmountable. It is possible no one president can truly repair our country, but I believe this administration can begin the work. All the feelings.

Harris was higher on my list of nominees than Biden during the primaries. Her personal story is one I am thrilled to share with my young students and with my own children. Her presence at that podium today is such a sign of potential and possibility. I am glad her voice will be there in the White House, pushing Biden to go farther and to do more than he might opt for on his own. This second couple also inspires me and brings me joy. All the feelings.

The fact that we have a First Lady and a Second Gentleman who will both be teaching while their spouses serve in the highest offices in the land is exciting to me. I’m not certain about the new Secretary of Education, I don’t know enough yet, but I am more hopeful than I’ve been in some time. All the feelings.

The inaugural ceremony was the most inclusive I can remember. From a Black woman speaking and signing the Pledge of Allegiance, to Jennifer Lopez preaching in Spanish in the middle of This Land is Your Land, to Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Kamala Harris. It felt like an inauguration that gave so many more people a chance to see themselves reflected back from the Capitol than ever before. All the feelings.

I felt some relief when the election results were called. I felt a bit more when the electoral college voted in December. I was still holding my breath, though, afraid that something awful would happen and our democracy wouldn’t hold on. January 6th suggested I was right for the lack of confidence that all would go well. So I guess it isn’t surprising that I was still tense and anxious today. When both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden had taken the oaths of office, it felt like I could breathe for the first time in a long time. All the feelings.

At the same time, even as I breathed deeply in and out, feeling some semblance of hope, I thought of all those who do not have that luxury. Those who, in the past four years, have been deported or separated from their family. Those who have died or lost loved ones to COVID-19. So many who have been impacted by the last four years in ways I don’t even know. I am celebrating and feeling optimistic while also grieving what we have lost. All the feelings.

Some photos from our C-SPAN viewing today.

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