Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sharing a new beginning

This morning I watched Barack Obama sworn in as 44th President of the United States of America on TV.

The TV was in a breakroom at a workplace. There was a time clock on the wall, a clock and a bulletin board with workplace safety posters.

The TV was mounted on a rig high up on the wall. It was a 24" TV. A looping cord stretched from the back of the TV to a set of rabbit-ears propped up on the neck of an empty Sparkletts bottle on the windowsill. The picture was as good as it would get, but it was a little fuzzy, even so. I couldn't tell if it was static on the screen, or if it really was snowing in DC. There was a pink cardboard box of donuts on the formica-topped table. Someone had kindly gotten me a metal folding chair to sit on when I came in from the parking lot.
I watched the ceremony with these guys:

  • M, a quiet African-American man I don't know very well, but who has a beautiful smile.
  • N, a big, blustery Caribbean immigrant who became a U.S. citizen two summers ago.
  • L, a sweet-faced young Mexican-American guy with elaborate tattoos on his arms.
  • E, an easy-going, slow-talking custodian who got married this summer, and is restoring a '60s vintage Ford Fairlane he sometimes polishes in the employee parking lot.
  • B, an older African-American man with whom I've shared my stories of caring for my aged mother, and he has shared his stories of caring for his mother with me.
  • A, a young, funny Guatemalan immigrant who's saving up for his oldest daughter's quincinera celebration this summer.
  • F, an older Mexican immigrant with limited English skills - we've spent the two years we've known each other smiling and nodding to one another with good will, but not really communicating. Today I vow to change this.
  • R, an African-American woman, mother of two daughters close in age to Malia and Sasha Obama, a devout 7th Day Adventist and one of my office-mates.
  • L, my peer in the hierarchy at work, a man my age of Norwegian-American ancestry, we share memories of working in the music industry.
  • J, the guy who started working here as a part-time high school student, and over 15 years has worked his way up to a supervisory position.
  • A, a new hire in my office, a woman Army veteran who rides a motorcycle to work.

The room was filled with joy, jokes, interracial teasing, heartfelt admiration for Aretha's fabulous hat, the furtive wiping of tears from eyes, the stoic posture of workingmen watching the tube with crossed arms, splayed feet on the floor, quietly. Slowly expanding big smiles. Spontaneous mutterings of "Oh, yeah," polite bemused tolerance at the Poem, and quiet chuckles at Reverend Lowery's benediction.

And then we all went back to work. With a warmer smile for one another. It was a memorable day.


Mingus said...

Just beautiful.

Nihal said...

Morning Glennis,
You say ''I watched the ceremony with these guys... M, N, L, J,...'' a long list.
What a wonderful 'gathering of multi-cultural' you had:) That's the point President Obama also touched on during his speech.
Oh... yes, agree with you abt Aretha's hat, gorgeous! How women, we are careful on details, no:)

Queenly Things said...

It was indeed a fabulous day. My heart is just full of hope. No kidding. Cranky ol' me.

Woman in a Window said...

oh g, I think you might have had the best seat in the whole of America. Wonderful vantage point.