Getting out the vote

My husband’s grandmother was 48 years old when women in this country were given the right to vote. I asked her what it was like to be finally accorded equal treatment in this most sacred privilege. “Who did you vote for that first time?” I gushed. “You must have been so thrilled!”

“Not really,” she said, “I don’t think I even voted that year.”

I was horrified. But then I realized that she had grown up accepting the role of second-rate citizen all her life and it was hard for her to comprehend that she had been cheated all those years. As fate would have it she gave birth to a woman (eventually my mother-in- law) who would grow up to be a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth political junky. She explained to me that she became involved in local politics because it was during the Depression (the first one) and it was one of the few social activities that were free. Then, she said, there comes a time when the school bus doesn’t come down your street and you start going to meetings to make the case for your kids to get a ride to school.

I can remember her taking her mother, at that time about 95 years old, to the polls. After the frail, elderly lady hobbled up and got herself inside the booth, her daughter would stand by and bellow, “Just pull the Democratic lever, mother!”

My own mother was fairly active in politics also, although her choice of a candidate was a bit misguided. She backed a fellow who was a Catholic, divorced, Italian Democrat. In Vermont? In the 1950s? I don’t think so. The first time I voted was by absentee while living off an army base in Germany. It was 1960 and the choice was between Richard Nixon and JFK. My husband and I went into separate rooms and filled out our ballots with the door shut. My heart was pounding with excitement. We both voted for the same guy and he won.

These days there are signs sprouting everywhere. There are commercials, some of them mean and horrid, some of them clever and compelling. My car sports a bumper sticker in case anyone doesn’t know my choice. For all the 27 years I worked at newspapers I couldn’t have one, but now that I’m retired, I do. And I wear a lapel pin, too.

I know a few people who won’t exercise their precious right to have a say in who will lead this country for the next four years. “It doesn’t do any good,” they say. “The same bunch of crooks will be running things as usual.” Probably true to a certain degree, but I couldn’t sleep nights if I didn’t use my chance to take part in the form of government we all believe in. It’s called Democracy and it means we MUST do our part by voicing our choice.

In a few days I get to do it again. And no matter how you slice it, this election is going down in history, big time. There’s going to be a major “first” at the top of the ticket and I will be part of it.

My heart will be pounding once again when I fill out my ballot.