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Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I was much less confident on election night this year than I had been four years ago. At that time, Barack Obama was ahead with much more comfortable margins, and he was poised to take states like Indiana and North Carolina, which he didn’t even need to reach the magic number of 270.

Four years ago the possibility that something would go wrong had been expunged from my mind. I was seven months pregnant, we had just moved into our new home, and the world was just waiting to be picked up and cherished, like a shiny, lucky penny on the sidewalk. And when Monty and I went to a fancy victory party on November 4th, 2008, we became engaged shortly before Obama was elected president.

It was a really great night.

This year we were invited to the same party, held by a guy Monty works with at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We also were invited to a get-together by one of my work friends, much smaller scale, yet it also would have been fun. But the choice was irrelevant because we couldn’t find a babysitter.

“You work on a college campus,” Monty said. “Can’t you ask one of your students?”

“My students are all political science majors. They’ll be going to their own parties on election night.”

“Then I guess we’re staying home.”

We had this conversation several days before the election. Monty was back at work, but he was crabby about it, and we were talking right before he had to leave for his morning commute. He put on his coat and grabbed his briefcase, as if to signal that the subject was closed.

“Well don’t be mad at me,” I said. “You could try and find a sitter.” I was holding Noah, who was heavy in my arms, and I shifted my weight.

“I’m not mad.” He leaned in and kissed Noah on the head, but skipped giving me the same token of affection. “It’s not a big deal. We’ll watch the returns at home like most people do.”

I didn’t argue. Honestly, I was sort of relieved not to be going out. If I had felt more confident about how it would go, or less exhausted at the end of each day, the idea of spending the evening somewhere other than my couch would have been more appealing. As it was, we took advantage of Daylight Saving Time by putting the kids to bed early, got take out, and sat glued to MSNBC from 6:00 PM Pacific Time on.

The knots in my stomach eased a little when Wisconsin was called relatively soon for Obama. To celebrate, I grabbed the last eggroll and shoved it in my mouth.

“Hey!” Monty cried. “I had dibs on that.”

I broke off the part that was still hanging out of my mouth and handed it to him.

“That’s disgusting,” he said.

“That’s marriage,” I replied.

Monty shrugged his shoulders and ate the rest of the eggroll.

Twenty minutes later, Rachel Maddow announced that New Hampshire had gone for Obama.

Monty started clapping. “Yeah!” he said. “That’s what I’m talking about. Four Electoral College votes, Baby. We’re winning this.”

I laughed, but still my fists were clenched. To the side of the screen they were flipping through all the states, but seriously, every time they were almost to Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, or Virginia, they’d start interviewing someone or switch to commercial. Yet I knew Romney was ahead in Virginia and it was way too close in Ohio. These numbers needed to change.

“Who is that fat guy?” Monty asked. The anchors were sitting around the table, with Rachel Maddow in the center.

“Do you mean Ed Schultz?”

“No. I know who Ed Schultz is. Who is that young, fat guy?”

I recognized Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Steve Schmidt, but I didn’t know who the younger, fat guy was. And I’m no stranger to MSNBC.

“I have no idea who he is.” I said.

Monty took a swig of his beer. “So why do we care what he has to say?”

“Because Rachel Maddow is asking him questions?”

We didn’t pontificate any longer, because at that moment Claire McCaskill was declared the winner in her senate run against Todd Akin. Monty and I whooped and cheered, which was a mistake, because Abby woke up.

“Mommy!” she yelled. “Come up here please!”

“At least she’s being polite.” Monty said.

I moved to go upstairs. “I knew it wouldn’t work to put her to bed at six.”

Three storybooks and one trip to the bathroom later, I came back downstairs.

“Anything?” I demanded.

Monty shook his head. But several minutes later, North Carolina was called for Romney.

“Come on!” I said.

“We never thought it would actually go to Obama,” said Monty. “I’m just glad it was so close.”

“Whatever.” I sighed and pouted, but I knew he was right. So we were watching Elizabeth Warren’s speech, and feeling pretty good about things, when moments later and without prelude, Rachel Maddow announced that Obama had won Ohio and the presidency.

We bounced up and down on the couch cushions, and hugged each other in delight. The cameras switched to the crowds cheering in Chicago, as they anticipated Obama’s victory speech.

It was to be a long wait. Monty grabbed the remote and the turned the television off.

I glared at him. “What are you doing? We still need to find out about Virginia, Colorado and Florida.”

“In a minute.” He got up and went into the other room where his briefcase was resting. He came back with an envelope that he handed to me.

“What’s this?” I said.

“Happy anniversary,” he said with a mischievous smile.

“It’s not our anniversary.”

“It sort of is.” He poked me in the shoulder. “It’s our election night anniversary. 2008, and remember back in 2000?”

“Of course.” Twelve years ago we weren’t a couple, and we were living in separate cities, but we talked on the phone into early morning while we waited to see if Bush or Gore had taken Florida. “That seems so long ago.”

“Because it was. Now open your present.”

I looked down the envelope in my hands. “I didn’t get you anything.”

He sighed. “Just open it, Lucy.”

I ripped open the envelope. Inside was a brochure for the Four Seasons hotel in Washington D.C. I gave Monty a questioning look.

He reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “We’re staying there for a week in January, and we’re going to the inauguration.”

I skipped a breath. “But… how?”

“I already talked to your parents. They’ll stay with the kids. Your classes won’t be in session, and we never had a honeymoon. So, I figured, four years later…”

It’s true. We never did have a honeymoon. I was in my last trimester when we got married, and a honeymoon would have been kind of pointless. So we figured we’d plan something for “after she’s born” but there has never been a good time.

“How did you get tickets to the inauguration?”

“I planned ahead.” He laughed. “And I have connections at work. Remember, we were going to go the first time?”

He had mentioned the possibility but dismissed it because I would be too pregnant to travel. “Maybe in four years,” I had said, and Monty had mocked me for my uncharacteristic optimism.  I had always believed that optimism was sure to lead to disappointment. I still hold onto that belief more than I should.

Monty took my free hand in his and kissed my palm. “You wouldn’t believe how nervous I was, after the first debate when Romney’s numbers shot up. I almost cancelled everything and bought us tickets to Mexico instead. But I’m glad I hung on.”

I laughed and placed my palm that he had kissed at the base of his neck. I was trying to find the words to thank him, but they wouldn’t come.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

Four years ago we stood outside beneath a starry sky. Now we sat on our couch, as our children slept upstairs. “It’s only the best present anyone’s ever given me.”

And because I was still struggling with how to say “thank you” I kissed him instead. And somehow, all the distance, emotional and otherwise, that had been slowly dissipating between us for the last few weeks, now felt completely bridged. He pulled me close, and soon, rather than sitting on the couch, we were lying on it.

What can I say? There was no reason not to start the honeymoon early.

So we missed out on the Romney campaign rejecting the Ohio call, and Karl Rove arguing with the Fox News experts, and the MSNBC gang mocking Karl Rove. But we did watch Obama’s victory speech. It was to be his last victory speech, and in true Obama fashion, he didn’t disappoint. He spoke to the masses, and his eloquence could draw patriotism from a rock.

While each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

I never knew what it meant to belong to people, to struggle and overcome, and to believe in myself, a cause, or a person, in the face adversity. And while I don’t believe that everything will now be perfect with my country or with my life, I feel ready to face the challenges. I want to move forward.

In 2004 Obama ended his convention speech by declaring that we are neither red America, nor blue America, but the United States of America. At that time I stood up and clapped, alone in my living room. Last night, when Obama ended his speech with the very same line, I smiled and whispered to Monty, “I hope that’s his legacy.”




* Now that the election is over, the blogs posts here will be less frequent (probably once a month). You can subscribe for an email alert every time there’s a new post, and/or look for notices on Laurel's Open Page  Or, you can just check back. Thanks for reading!





  1. Oh, yea! I love how this wrapped it up. I was glued to the TV Tuesday night as well, matching state calls against Nate Silver's predictions. Living on the East Coast, Romney's numbers added up fast but I was trusting Nate Silver. It's kind of fun to track it all, but too much stress for more frequent than every 4 years.

    But back to the blog- I really like how you've been continuing the November Surprise story with Lucy's posts. And even though they're less frequent now, I'll still check them out.

    1. Thanks, Ashley! I'm so glad you liked it. I was almost as nervous for Nate Silver as I was about Obama. I just really wanted all his critics proven wrong!
      I'm glad you want to check back. I considered just ending it, but I've gotten so attached to Lucy at this point, I thought, what the heck, I may as well continue.