Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Biting My Nails Until....

Key West -- we arrived back home on Friday night, following a busy week of campaigning in the Miami/Boca area. It feels as if we've been on the road for a month, and actually, now that I look at the calendar, we have.

First came Madison, Wisconsin. That was on October 14. I still had the last of a sinus infection but flew anyway with my doc's blessing and some meds. Gave the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture at the university on the 15th. George says it was my least focused speech -- maybe because my friend Lois Lowry told me the audience would know every word I'd ever written or said so I'd better do something new. Trouble is, I only have so much to say (this wasn't a political speech - I was being honored as a writer). I've learned that from now on I just have to say what I know. The audience was very warm and generous in their response. They probably just thought I was slightly ditzy.

That was the night of the final debate so I was rushed back to my hotel, where I'd already ordered up a pasta supper to be delivered by room service. Missed just the first 30 minutes which I saw later. (Wow -- this seems like such a long time ago!)

Next morning I met several classes of 6th graders at the Governor's home. His wife, Jessica Doyle, was a school librarian and regularly invites school children into her home -- gives them a tour (they even met Governor Doyle) -- then talks with them about books. I read a scene from Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, as these kids had just started middle school and I thought they would relate to Rachel, a 7th grader who has to deal with a difficult older brother. It started a good discussion about family relationships. Turns out Governor and Mrs. Doyle know Amanda, my stepdaughter. Small world.

That afternoon I had my first taste of campaigning for Obama - first, at a house party for mothers and daughters (and some sons), later at an Obama campaign office. I discovered that in Madison, Wisconsin, not only is everyone friendly, but most voters support Obama. So I didn't have to work very hard and my guide and liason to the campaign, Heather Colburn, was perfect in every way. I learned a lot from her. I wish I had her at my side wherever and whenever I have to speak on any subject. One funny question from an almost 12 year old girl who is already a political junkie -- "What do you think of Sarah Palin?" I knew it wasn't appropriate to say anything negative about the other candidates so I thought for a minute, then said, "Well...I like her jackets." (This was before the story broke about the money spent on her campaign wardrobe.) The crowd cracked up. But I meant it.

On the flight back to New York every time I yawned to open my ears I heard a strange whooshing sound. I kept asking George if he heard it, too. He didn't, of course, since it was coming from my ear. Oh oh.

This explains why, when we left for Miami (to campaign) a few days later, we had to take the train. A leaky blood vessel in my ear made flying not a good idea. We actually looked forward to a day of reading on the train without interruptions. I read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. She wrote Prep, a wonderful first novel, and this one, totally different, was equally enjoyable and well written. George read Porter Shreve's When the White House Was Ours (no, not that White House). I almost didn't care that our train was over three hours late getting to Miami. Or that we'd already spent one night on the train. But the thought of spending another wasn't something either one of us found romantic. (The reality of Amtrak isn't the fantasy we grew up with from watching movies.) But, hey, it saved my ear.

We stayed at a hotel in Coconut Grove because 30 something years ago George spent a month there and remembered it fondly. Mitchell Kaplan, who owns Books&Books, one of the great independent bookstores in the country, was a huge help in scheduling a couple of Obama events for me. The most interesting was at a Hebrew Day school in Miami Beach. The campaign freaked out because Joe Lieberman was speaking at the same school the following night. They were sure I'd be asked questions about Israel that I wouldn't be able to answer so they sent two experts on the middle east. This was supposed to be an informal gathering of moms (and some dads) with the middle schoolers. I doubt they would have asked me any hard questions about the middle east. But this way I didn't have to worry. And neither did the campaign.

We met up with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and a young, talented political comedienne, Katie Halper (who also teaches history at the Dalton School in NY) in Boca Raton. We all shared a condo with a fantastic ocean view, donated by a generous Obama supporter from NY. It was a real bonding experience. The three of us spoke at 6 events in less than 3 days. George gave us moral support and drove us from place to place -- a good thing because he has a great sense of direction, not to mention a GPS in his iPhone. I would get lost even with a GPS.

We performed the "Judy, Letty, Katie" show at an art gallery, a women's center, and at four house parties. Our goal was to reach those voters still on the fence about voting for Obama. Amazing to me that so many of these intelligent women had been frightened by the malicious lies and ugly rumors -- exactly what the opponents had hoped for. The politics of fear! But after each event 3 or 4 women came up to tell us we'd helped them feel better about voting for Obama. Every vote counts, every vote has consequence. We fell into bed at night exhausted, often after very late suppers at the few restaurants that remained open until 11pm. And we were only on the road a week. I can't begin to imagine what it was like to be on the campaign trail for 22 months. Well, I can....but I don't want to go there. What strength and stamina it takes! It's too much for anyone and I hope we never have to go through a campaign that lasts this long again. I hope it as a voter and I hope it for the candidates.

George is working at the polls today -- as a Voter Protector. I haven't heard from him since noon when he reported all was well in Ramrod Key. Don't know where he's traveled since then. Monroe County covers all the Keys with Key West being the end of the road.

I have photos from each event but George has the camera with him and who cares anyway?
Tomorrow this will all be history. I'm pretty much a wreck -- too superstitious to admit the polls look good for my candidate. A friend is having an election party starting in an hour. I'd rather climb into bed and watch the returns on my own but she's having sandwiches and 100 chocolate cookies and we have nothing to eat in our house so maybe I'll wander over. But even if the race is called at 8pm I won't believe it until all the votes have been counted. Or as my mother would have said, poo poo - then she'd spit on her hand. The translation being, It should only be! or, Don't count your chickens until.....

Hope you've all voted. Whichever candidate you support voting is our privilege as well as our duty. I always cry when I vote. I'll cry tonight, too, whichever way it goes.
xxx Judy