Election Day, November 4, 2008
By Alice Walker
Finally it is here, November 4th, election morning. This election will change the face of the planet, if Barack Obama wins the presidency. All last week I was thinking of my father, and of Christmas. When I was a child Christmas was the most exciting event of the year, and that is what these last weeks have felt like, getting ready for Christmas. We didn’t know it then, but all the shoe boxes from the shoes my parents bought us, had been carefully saved and stored somewhere. The week-end before Christmas morning, my father had gone into town and bought our Christmas gifts. We had all gone into the woods together to find our perfect tree. We had decorated it together, using lots of red and white crepe paper for the streamers, and for the ornaments and star, tin foil.
The anticipation leading up to Christmas morning was intense. We knew it would be good, and it always was. In each child’s shoe box would be a stick of peppermint candy, raisins, a scattering of brazil nuts, a bunch of grapes, and the most wondrous thing of all, an orange. The smell alone sent one into ecstasy. Because I had been feeling this sensation of “Christmas Gift” (which is what neighbors called out as they visited our yard on Christmas day) I thought I would not have been able, last night, to sleep. I did, though. Soundly, and well. We have, all of us, done all that we can peacefully do, to bring about this present shift in the consciousness of the world, and therefore deserve our rest. As do the Obamas, who have fought the good fight, with courage and class.
It is only now, entering my sixty-fifth year, that I begin to realize how little I understood anything while I was growing up. A child’s job is simply to be, perhaps to observe, certainly to play. But now, watching this election, I think of how little I grasped – there was no way I could – my father’s quiet heroism. Who knew what monsters he encountered buying those oranges and those grapes, walking in the town’s streets, where he was not really welcome. And his constant faith that he and my mother, out of almost nothing, in today’s terms, could nonetheless create a Christmas that would make every member of their large family happy.
My father was one of the people who trusted this day would come: I think of him laughing, now, at the sheer wonder of it. A man of shining dark skin, in a white work shirt and blue bibbed overalls, his large brown eyes filled with….the quiet peace of completion. He probably thought it was impossible, but at the same time, he was waiting for this day; if only to give his children, who are still living, a feeling they had almost forgot: hope for the blessing that is change, when it is fueled by devotion, generosity, courage, and love.
Copyright © Alice Walker 2008