I spent yesterday like many Americans: television on, watching and listening to every bit of trivia the broadcasters shared about the events surrounding Inauguration Day. As primarily a writer of non-fiction, I am a junkie for facts. And, having lived nearly 3 score years, I have had the privilege of witnessing some of the most amazing events of the 20th and 21st centuries. But yesterday, my thoughts often drifted to Lexi.
I already knew what the election of this president meant to her. Lexi is only twelve so she does not qualify as either a Republican or a Democrat. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency was not about politics to this child. It was about possibilities. Lexi watched a man, whose history mimics her own, rise to the top.
When my son met Lexi's mother, Lexi was about 18 months old. Her father, an African American, was not part of her life. When Lexi turned 6, my son married her mom. Like Obama, Lexi sees her white family more than her black family. I know this confused her even at age 6. While her parents honeymooned, we took a trip to Washington, D.C. to bring my youngest daughter back to college. It was a big change for a little girl from New Hampshire. There were many, many more black, brown, and tan faces in the D.C. crowd than are usually seen in our little state. At one point, Lexi sighed, spread her arm towards the crowd, and said to me, " I should live here with these people." It broke my heart to think that this much-loved little girl was already feeling like an outsider--years before the usual middle school traumas. I had not realized that a six-year-old was capable of thinking beyond her own little world.
I did my best to comfort her and say what I hoped were the right words: "All families are different. Family members don't always look the same..." I pointed out the difference between my blond blue-eyed son and brown haired, brown-eyed daughter. The daugher looked less like a born relative of my son and more like she belonged with Lexi. Did my words help? I don't know.
A few months ago, after the election, Lexi asked if I was glad Barack Obama had been elected. I told her I was pleased. She nodded and replied, almost in a whisper, "Me, too." I knew what those words meant. For Lexi and so many other children like her, Obama's election helped them feel less like an outsider and more like the loop that connects two strong chains of people.
What a great gift to a future Woman of Wednesday.
Lexi, at age six and a half.