It was impossible to watch the inauguration aftermath alone. I called my mother-in-law Barbara for a gush-and-elate session. It just made me miss Dave. After watching so many Daily Shows, sharing so many tears, buying our first O'Bama t-shirts and then becoming progressivly involved, impressed, and excited, how could we not share this moment? On impulse I drove down to his school with the burning desire to give him a hug.
I spotted him on the playground as I drove up. It was business as usual for a Tuesday; he was surrounded by kindergartners. He was as far away from the front office as a teacher could be, and with this world-bursting hug building up inside of me, I didn't want to make the trek. I pulled on my parking brake and clambered up the hill to the patched chain link fence. "It's Mrs. Caven," he said in disbelief, and his Simon Says game went to pieces. Twenty little heads turned in my direction; forty little feet drifted away from his sphere of control. Little warm bodies flowed across a small expanse of asphalt towards me, then lined up at the fence, like jetsam caught at a log in a river. Little faces pressed up against the fence, staring into mine, twenty shades of brown and tan. "When I get home from school," says one with bead-bangled braids, "my mama says there's going to be a new president." Dozens and dozens of wide and eyes, innocent of the day's significance behind long, babylike lashes, and open, trusting smiles. "Surprise," I smile, "he's here already." They are not as sliced open with emotion as all the adults I have seen or talked to today. They are just happy to have someone new to look at. Pretty. Shiny. New. But Dave does not seem to mind the awkward distraction.
You can't hug through a chain link fence. Dave and I had to stretch our lips through the metal to touch. Half a dozen little voices went "Eeew."
"Simon Says, back to your spots," Dave calls, a good teacher who understands the tenderness of his tinies. One lingers behind, one with the DNA of Mayan mathematicians showing in the bones of his face. He links his small, warm fingers with mine through the fence, mouth open, gawping happily. "Maybe you'll be president someday," I say, thinking how he will never know a world where color lines are drawn just below the top. His face pulls to one side as he considers what I just said. He clearly thinks I'm insane. "I can't be president! I'm just a little kid," he says. As if the thought of being a grownup had not yet occurred to him.
As I turn away, Dave (Mr. Caven) opens a parachute as colorful as the children around him. What a great metaphor. For what schools should do for kids; for what society should do for its sick, poor, frail and unfortunate; for what we all should do for each other. I wish the world a safe landing from the past eight — and eight hundred years.
(Also read: Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead)