Mom and Dad have been living in South Florida for over 20 years but miles have only brought our relationship closer. The other day, we were ruminating on the awesomeness of Mr. Obama’s election, and I suggested she share some of her unique perspective as my guest blogger. Enjoy!
Today is Friday, November 8, 2008, three days after the election of Barach Obama, the first African American to be elected to the office of President of the United States. The morning after the election I was reading an article in the newspaper, and I wish I had paid more attention to the name of the author. She (I think it was she but I’m not sure) said that babies born in the past year and from this point on will not have a clue of the tremendous affect this election has had on the America electorate and, in fact, the world in general. Those citizens who are babies now will grow up thinking it’s quite ordinary to have a black president, and inevitably, a woman president.
This set me to thinking because I have a new great granddaughter, Ava Andreoletti, born just this past summer. She lives in the town of Northfield in Vermont with her parents and stepbrother. Ava’s mother is my granddaughter, and her maternal grandmother is my daughter. It is possible that President Obama will serve in office until Ava is eight years old, so her earliest presidential memories will be of this man and his family. His daughters will continue to grow toward adulthood in the White House and Ava will probably read about them from time to time. She may know where they go to school and what subjects they are interested in. If another black person follows Obama in the presidency, Ava won’t think that is a marvelous thing. She will think it’s ordinary.
I began to think of what life was like when I was born in 1923, a few short years after women were given the right to vote. I have never known what it is like to be unable to vote or even to run for office. Voting was a big thing in my family when I was young. My father’s mother, Mary Ann McGilvery, worked on campaigns for women to gain the right to vote. After that actually happened, she ran for the office of County Committeewoman in the town of East Paterson, New Jersey (now Elmwood Park) and she won. As long as she lived, she never missed voting in an election and neither did any of her children. The day after I turned twenty-one, my parents took me to the town hall where we lived to make sure I registered to vote as soon as I was legally able to do so. That year my birthday came a week after election day so I had to wait a whole year to vote in a general election. I really didn’t know how hard a road it had been for women to get to vote – I just took it for granted that it had always been that way.
Over the length of my eighty-five years, I have seen change after change after change in our country. I have lived through the depression, serving in WWII, a hurricane, the fun and games of raising five children and now retirement. When I was very young, not all homes had bathrooms and we never heard of a shower. Our home had a bathroom that had been added on to the original house. There was no heat in the room and insulation in walls was still a long way off so that bathroom was frigid in the winter. None of us lingered there. We didn’t complain though – we didn’t have to use an outhouse so we were really happy to have a house with the most important modern addition. Interestingly, Ava lives in a home heated by a wood stove. It has something also unknown when I was a child – it has two bathrooms.
There were no machines for washing clothes or dishes when I was small. We thought if food froze it was ruined and it would be thrown away. Food was kept cold in iceboxes and the ice melted quickly especially in the summer and constantly had to be replaced. The big squares of ice were placed in the top of the icebox and as it melted the cold water ran down pipes at the sides of the box into a pan that was underneath the whole thing. That pan had to be emptied every day. That was my Dad’s job and once in a while, not very often for sure, he would forget and when he would come downstairs to the dark kitchen the next morning he would step into the ice water now spreading over the floor. His shouts would wake everyone up but only my mother would get up to settle things down.
Although Vermont has more than its share of ice and snow in the winter, Ava will only know an electric refrigerator. One with a good size freezer. Her parents can keep ice cream there all the time if they want, and none of them will know what a special treat it is when you can only have it once in a while if you happen to be in a place where they sell it and your parents happen to have enough money with them to buy every family member an ice cream cone.
One of these days, Ava may even come to visit us in Florida. Her trip will be through the air and no one will think that is unusual. She will arrive in Florida the same day she leaves Vermont, a distance of about sixteen hundred miles. A miracle! So ordinary in the times in which we now live.
How will times and lives change in the days coming as Ava grows up? No way to know – impossible even to make a guess. Will she reach a day at the age of eighty-five and write about a brand new great grandchild? Compare the days of the beginning of her life to the days of that new person? How many presidents will she have seen come and go, and what kind of effect will they have in her life? Come to think of it, how does
President Ava Andreoletti sound?