I awake and the house is abuzz and jittery. As I stumble sleepily down the stairs, I can't help but grin as I wipe the sleepybugs into my fists and catch a glimpse of the kitchen. Dad is pouring steaming coffee from a French press and Mama is wrapping him in a bearhug from behind, nuzzling his neck and laughing into his cheek. I smell pancakes and rich, maple syrup and hear the sizzle of crackling bacon on the stove. As I enter the room, my parents turn around and suddenly, there is an outburst of confetti - red, white, and blue - all over the countertops as their noisemakers blow. Mama is wearing a hat that resembles Uncle Sam's and big, bold, American flag pajamas. "Happy Election Day!" she screams.
As we bunch together in a family hug, Mama kisses my hair. Dad urges me into a seat at the counter, plopping a heaping plate of steaming pancakes in front of me, and then, he flips on the T.V. Live coverage of the nation's numerous polling centers fills the screen. The reporter, relaxed and vibrant, mouths excited words from her pretty red lips. The people in line to vote around her wiggle with excitement and try to get a peek into the camera shot. Signs of peace, love, and ripples of our nation's flag are everywhere. Citizens young and old, Black and White, gay and straight are bound together in unity in one significant act. They are going to vote, and then they are going to wait, honoring a civic duty and anticipating an even better tomorrow than they have today.
Mama tells me it wasn't always like this. In fact, just before I was born, our nation was in upheaval, segregated by hate, poor reporting and a general loss of decency and respect. If you were a Republican you were dubbed a racist and if you were a Democrat you didn't value human life. It was hard to be a school teacher and be conservative, and liberals had little place in church. There were riots over the presidency and you couldn't watch T.V. without witnessing the slander of our nation's leaders. Dad says that 2020 was one of the most unbiblical seasons of his life. And, people voted wearing masks! But, I guess, if I were behaving like Americans were in 2020, I would probably hide myself behind a mask, too.
Mama said I am lucky that I am growing up in a world that looks different than it did just a few short years ago. She said that something happened among the American people after the election of 2020 - something she still struggles to believe. She said that people who were empowered to raise their voices began to use their voices to uplift humanity rather than cutting down those who struggled with their biases and implicit beliefs. She said people began to become educated and vowed to learn about diverse perspectives rather than simply say, "Well those weren't my ancestors who [took the land, owned slaves, created discriminatory policies, etc.]." She said that women started applauding one another for their accomplishments and bound together in this united front that stopped them from demeaning others and instead propelled their movement forward. She said that White people and Black people started seeing humanity differently and considered racism to be a product of racist policies and started focusing on eliminating those policies in order to create a more equitable humanity for all. Dad said the nation stopped idolizing people in power and started digging deeper into voting for policy that aligned with their character and their morals and not based on what some dated political party told them they should. Slowly, they said, the riots stopped, because the killing of innocent people stopped. Racism began to dwindle because racist policy became obsolete. Our communities became more diverse and harmonious because people were more informed about racism and colorism and privilege and prejudice - words I have read about in my history books and learned about from many BIPOC who are not only my teachers, but also our family friends.
They also said social media just one day went away. They refuse to talk about it much, but they said it made the world a quieter, more sensitive, safer place to live. "Family over phones," they sometimes quietly say.
As the coverage stops, I get ready to make my way back upstairs to get ready for the day ahead. We have a voting booth at school, and we have each been assigned a unique perspective to take on that will influence how we vote. Mama and Dad helped me understand that my vote may look different from other students', even if I consider them to be my friends. We all come to the table with a unique set of experiences, and it's okay if what I prioritize looks different from others - even my friends. Dad says we have two worthy candidates that will uphold American values regardless of which way the vote swings. Mama, who I get the feeling is voting differently from Dad, says the same. As I put on my backpack and go out the door to await the bus, I proudly announce that I have determined my vote. Mama and Dad look at each other, and then at me. Mama whispers, "We are so proud of you. Go serve your nation well. Either candidate is going to fight for your freedom and your well-being either way."
As I walk away, Dad looks up at the sky and I hear him whisper to Mama, wrapping an arm around her back. "One nation, under God." As I get on the bus, I murmur, "With liberty and justice for all."