“Mommy, Are You Doing a Happy Cry?”
Her child will see a woman in the White House
I have been a parent for nearly four years, which of course makes me an expert in the psychological effect of four years of tremendous sustained stress. So today, when I woke up and ran off to the bakery for a loaf of bread, it was surprising to feel a slight spring in my step. “This,” I thought, “is what relief feels like.” Relief feels like not being run over every day by a truck.
As I wrote yesterday, we were in Cold Spring when the news came. People came out to clang pots and honk horns all up and down Main Street. The owner of a thrift shop called out to anybody who passed by that “dignity has been restored to the country”. Kina had little idea about why things were so noisy, but she knew it had something to do with Pennsylvania being called, and she hooted along with the rest of Cold Spring in raucous celebration of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.*
As all this unfolded, we snuck off into the garden of a local restaurant for lunch, still in shock. It took about fifteen minutes for Laurea to burst into tears—maybe the first time in Kina’s life that she’s allowed herself to contemplate the significance, for our daughter, of the last four years of American governance. It was particularly shocking for both of us to suddenly, fully realize that the actual Vice President-Elect of the United States was a woman of color—that Kina’s lifelong mental prototype of a vice president would be a Black and South Asian woman is a dramatically different outcome than we had imagined four years ago. That outcome had grown increasingly likely by Friday, of course, but we had not given ourselves the luxury of hoping for it (and I hesitate even to write about it how, for fear of jinxing the matter).
Last night, I swear, we slept much more deeply that we have in nearly four years. Maybe it’s because I’d been extra twitchy for the preceding week, but I do think there’s a physiological side-effect of this transfer of power (even as that transfer is not yet fully-agreed-upon). Two and a half years ago, I suddenly started experiencing ocular migraines; this was nearly a year after Kina’s birth and the ascent of our current president, and it is not lost on me in hindsight that stress was their main cause. It took me months before I outran the fear of those migraines and the sense that I was not in control of my own vision. I realized, in fact, that I wasn’t in control of much of anything at that point—everything I had believed was bedrock turned out to be irrelevant or illusory. Without that psychological foundation, it’s hard to live with a screaming tyrant in your life. Two, as it turns out, will leave you reeling.
I’ve spent much of the last four years wondering what it might be like not to think about the President of the United States on a near-constant basis. With all the things that are currently on fire (both literally and figuratively), we need all our mental energy to focus on putting those fires out, and watching the catastrophe on Pennsylvania* Avenue unfold in recent years has been an unhelpful distraction. I know the coming months and years will be no less difficult than the four (or forty) that preceded them, but I relish the thought that we can all now focus on disagreeing about how best to rebuild a world for Kina (America’s most prominent juvenile newspaper publisher), and in this moment right now, I feel relieved.
Laurea was really looking forward to today’s Parade, and tried valiantly to produce pastel portraits of our country’s future leaders to paste over this field of washi-tape fireworks, but decided mid-portrait that she might need to practice faces a bit more. I think the end result is more than fine.
Heart hands to all and sundry.
* The home state, as we now know, of Four Seasons Total Landscaping