I used to be easy to tear up. Christmas movies, AT&T “reach out and touch someone commercials. While I’ve hardened a bit over the years, I still can’t watch the ASPCA commercials. I think as years pass people see more and more heart-rending situations and those situations have almost a reverse effect on their tear ducts. They harden the heart so to speak. My great aunt described the almost daily parade of ambulances that pulled into her senior residence and pulled out carrying the body of someone she was friends with. My mother in law used to say that getting older is not for the weak of heart. You can’t spend every day crying about one thing or another. Besides maybe one begins to run out of tears. Isn’t that what we used to tell our weepy children?
I didn’t cry during the inauguration, though I had a lot I could have cried about, relief being primary. I could have had a good PSTD cry over the insurrection and the re-run pictures of the young policeman being beaten senseless in the door way, or the other young policeman terrified as he was being crushed under his own protective shield, or over the other death and injuries that occurred.
It is hard for some to understand this, but I could have cried for the building itself. I lived in DC for six years, going to school there. As many of you know, I was a tourist guide in the city. I had a loving, intimate relationship with the city, which to this day takes my breath away, even with its flaws. The capitol building is a marvel of art and architecture, a rabbit warren of wonderful things, a Disneyland of moving characters who you don’t see in cartoons or in comics, other than political, but who you see on TV news trying to explain the running the country.
I could have cried for our country, torn asunder by riff-raff who act as patriots, or rent by honest but serious political difference. And I could have cried because in spite of all that worked against it, we made it to a successful transfer of power. There might have been a tear for our new vice president and her making of long overdue history and our president still suffering at the loss of his son (does one ever stop such suffering?), or the other side of the coin, that he completed successfully his life life dream, and the plea of his dying son, to become president.
Usually I am fascinated and awed by the crowds that were this inauguration day absent. But in their stead, who could not be touched deeply by that field of American flags waving at those completing the successful continuation of history? Even the usual pageantry didn’t do it. I choke up on the fourth of July and every time time I hear trumpets herald the presence of the president of the United States. Same for when the Sergeant of Arms calls the Congress to attention by announcing the president’s entry to give the State of the Union address.
I had settled with myself that this would be a tearless event for me but then as Burl Ives so sweetly sang so many years ago, “A little bitty tear let me down.”
It was when that self-described “skinny little girl” stepped forward. At 22 she still looked 12, At the first moment there was some nervousness. You could see it as she straightened herself and strightened her “stage.”
Aside from the her masterful command of the English language, the power of her message, its flow, the physical grace that accompanied her message, grabbed me. Three things loosened that little tear from its perch on my lower eyelid and started it descent to my cheek.
First it was her face. She was aglow; she radiated beauty. It wasn’t the plastic Miss America beauty pageant glow, it was the glow of pride, and power, and self-satisfaction.
The second was her hat. It was red. The first thing I thought of was, “The Red Badge of Courage.” To me the hat symbolized that she too was fighting, but with her words, for the life of her country. Young, brave, determined she was. Being watched by millions, she was a study in courage.
And then there was that coat. Do they make a brighter yellow? It was the sun shining down on us, sweeping away, if only for a few moments, the darkness that had preceded it. It filled the heart with gladness and hope. It shouted out, “The sun will come out tomorrow” as it is out today.
I buried myself in her words. I soared with her emotions and her motions. I felt a shudder in my chest. Could the most significant thing done for us on “Biden/Harris Day One” have been the choice of this young woman to remind us both who we were, who are are, and who we yet can be? So yes, a little, bitty tear let me down. You too should have had one–at least from my perspective.