January 22-23, 2017. The Journey Home
We slept late, tired legs and feet, aching knees, and slightly more optimistic hearts. My oldest daughter’s 25th birthday was on Friday, Inauguration Day, not a great day to reach the milestone of a quarter century. I hadn’t sent birthday presents yet. It’s hard to shop in Vermont, there are no big box stores or popular chains nearby, and I love that about Vermont, but here in the DC neighborhood of Friendship Heights it is a short walk to a world of shopping. I bought a soft leather wallet and incredibly soft knee socks at DSW, a long sleeved blue RBX activewear shirt at Marshall’s, and blue crystal drop earrings at World Market. I also found lavender for my younger daughter who has been wanting to use it in her creme brûlée recipe. The cashiers at this very hip store I had never been to before had attended the march too. Everyone was fired up and still rushing with adrenaline.
One of the cashier said, “We can’t stop here. We have to keep fighting but what do we do? I’ve heard there are already plans for another march in April.”
I swiped my debit card and said, “Well, I’ve been to DC a lot but I’ve never seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Until then I think we need to keep calling our representatives.”
Ann had an early work day on Monday. My flight wasn’t leaving until 10:40 pm but I told her she could bring me to the airport early. I could watch the Patriots football game. She got me there by the end of the first quarter and I found a seat at the bar right across from my gate. Women still wearing pink hats roamed the airport and the Patriots had a ten point lead. I ordered an Obrycki’s Amber Ale. I know my around here, I’ve been to this bar before.
An older couple to my left were engrossed in their own conversation and weren’t interested in the game. They didn’t like the Patriots they told me. They hate Tom Brady.
The menu was limited but the crab salsa and nacho chips looked good. The bartender told me he was out of food. I ordered another beer and posted pictures on Instagram until two brothers arrived. They sat one seat down from me then George arrived and took that empty seat. All three of them didn’t like the Patriots and a lively discussion about Deflategate ensued. I told them they were all just jealous.
The brothers had brought their Dad on a fishing trip to Costa Rica for his 80th birthday and were now headed home. One brother lived in rural Pennsylvania and the other Connecticut. They met here in Baltimore where their Dad lives. George lives in rural Maryland and was on his way to Wisconsin to sell some sort of heating pipes. He owns his own business. They of course asked where I was headed and what I was doing in Baltimore. When I told them I was in DC for the women’s march they laughed and smiled like it was something silly or futile.
I told them it was amazing then laughed and said, “I guess we don’t agree on football or politics.” I changed the subject to the weather. All of our flights had been delayed and whenever in doubt, discuss the weather.
Then they surprised me. Connecticut said “I voted for Bernie, but I couldn’t vote for her.”
“Me too, couldn’t do it,” his brother from Pennsylvania said.
We all looked at George from Maryland. He looked up from his beer and said, “Me, too. I voted for Bernie but I couldn’t trust her.”
I sighed. I could have replied, “And you trust Trump?”
But did I really want to go there at a bar in the middle of the Southwest terminal? We started to talk about the things we did agree on: the economy, the middle class, Wall Street greed, the cost of college.
“Trump has appointed three guys from Goldman Sachs,” I reminded them.
They had all the talking points. I knew where they got their news although George swore he watched MSNBC. They all believed Trump wouldn’t really disrupt things like healthcare. They said gay marriage and abortion weren’t big concerns of theirs and they weren’t worried about Trump disrupting any of that. I asked them about Paul Ryan and the vote to repeal the ACA. They all agreed Trump won’t let that happen without a replacement.
The Patriots scored another touchdown. The brothers left to board their respective flights. George wanted to talk more politics. We both ordered another beer. He seemed to feel the need to defend himself. He thought there were too many taxes on a small business owner like himself and the government wasted a lot of his hard earned money. He wanted me to understand his point of view and he reminded me of the builder I worked for in Pompano Beach. A nice guy. George was worried about the Putin situation. I sensed he had a few doubts about his voting decision.
“So what do you think you accomplished?” he asked.
I told him it wouldn’t end with the march. We were fired up to go home and get active. There would be more protests and marches. We would call our representatives. I would be writing about it. I told him I understood his dislike of Hillary and I too was tired of politics as usual. The money, the lobbying. I told him I also understood the frustration. My husband paints houses for a living and we struggle to pay the bills.
Boarding for his flight had begun. The bar was closing. We wished each other safe travels and I found a wall outlet to plug my phone into.
Two young girls were using the same outlet. They were sitting on the floor holding hands, one girl with a crewcut and the other with long blond hair. They had marched in Austin, Texas where they met and used to live and were now on their way home to Providence. I told them I was staying with my daughter but now that we weren’t arriving until 12:50 I was thinking of calling Uber but was having trouble loading the app. The blond helped me but in the end I didn’t have enough available data for it to load.
The other girl said, “Just call your daughter. Even if it was three in the morning, I’d still pick up my mom.”
She was right, of course. My daughter told me she’d come get me.
On the plane I took the aisle seat next to two other young girls still wearing their pink hats. Across from me were two women around my age who had also marched. We discussed what was next and a mother and daughter behind me also joined the conversation.
The daughter said, “You’re so lucky Bernie is your senator.”
Leaning into the aisle, I craned my neck to see her behind me. “I wish we were all so lucky,” I said.
She and her mother made sad faces. We all exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch regarding upcoming protest events in New England.
My daughter was waiting right outside the door and we got back to her apartment at 1:15 but I couldn’t fall asleep. Exhausted but still excited about the weekend I went online and read all the stories and commentary. At peaceful marches all over the world, no one was arrested. No riots broke out. I fell asleep at three a.m.
On Monday January 23, 2000 women who were traveling home from the Women’s March on Washington showed up at their state capital in Salt Lake City, Utah with their signs from DC. It was the day the state legislature opened and they wanted their voices to be heard. They led the charge to keep on fighting.
The marches are just the beginning of this story. I don’t know where and when this story ends. Like some of the signs at the march said, “I Can’t Believe We’re Still Protesting This Shit.” There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to fight for what we believe in and stop this President from tearing down everything we’ve built up over the years.
But we also need to change the way we do politics in America. I sensed it in the conversation at the BWI bar while watching a football game with three decent guys who voted reluctantly and now shared some regret but are still hoping things will be okay. I don’t feel that hope, I don’t feel like it’s going to be okay but I did tell George before he left that I was going to be fighting every day to make sure both parties were listening.
As Gloria Steinem said on Saturday, “The constitution doesn’t begin with I the President. It begins with We the People.”
Once again I slept late. I left Providence at ten. A nor’easter was approaching and I needed to beat the storm to Vermont. By late afternoon the weatherman was forecasting twenty-four hours of snow and ice. Crossing the border into the Green Mountain state I felt like I had left the rest of the mad world behind me.
George asked me about Vermont. “There’s a lot of poverty there, right?”
Yes there is poverty, quite a bit of it. I tried to explain the state of mind that is Vermont but it’s not easy. It’s a unique place. An American place. Different yet still the same. We’re all in this together.
***Join the conversation. If you attended a march share your stories in the comments section below.***
Keep speaking up. Here is one suggestion for something to keep this train moving: