I haven’t missed an inauguration in D.C. since I was…I don’t know, born maybe. In fact, I haven’t missed much in D.C. when Mall crowd numbers are counted.
I remember only that I was very young when my stepfather drove my siblings and me downtown and ferried us up to his hotel’s rooftop so that we could “witness history.” I didn’t understand what I was watching, except I was intrigued by the crowd that was so silent, by the people in the hotel who were crying. Later, I would learn–because I was told again and again–that I had seen President Kennedy’s funeral procession.
I remember being forbidden by my stepfather to attend any anti-war demonstrations, “Because you’re too damn young and there’s nothing but damn hippies there,” and so I didn’t. But I watched on the TV news, amazed by the sheer numbers of people.
I remember being on the Mall for the Bicentennial Fourth of July fireworks, how incredibly hot it was, and how when we walked the blocks and blocks to our car, I couldn’t see or feel the sidewalks from the streets from the grass and gardens because of the sea of people by whom I felt carried along above the ground.
I remember walking around downtown long after the conclusion of the Bush 41 inaugural parade, and suddenly coming upon the Indiana state float that was simply abandoned by the side of a curb. A giant, glittering gold star had fallen off its side and lay on the pavement. Mr. RG didn’t miss a step as he picked it up and we kept walking, now laughing about how we had come upon this strange memento. It hangs in his office to this day.
I remember welcoming home the released hostages from Iran as I stood on the sidewalk and watched their bus ride down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will never forget the relief and joy everyone felt as we waved and cheered. The yellow ribbons, it seemed, had really worked magic.
I remember the incredible security measures and how cold it was as my friend and I stood very close to the Capitol and listened to President Bush’s second inaugural speech. No one else wanted to bother to join us, politics aside. It was just too much to deal with, our friends and spouses told us.
I remember walking a few blocks after work to stand in sweltering heat to watch President Reagan’s funeral procession. I remember feeling shocked at how close I was able to get, how I felt like I could literally reach out and touch the stirrup of the riderless horse.
Today, I watched President Obama’s swearing in, listened to his speech, and heard the commentary as told to us by all the talking heads who were bundled up against the biting cold, from my toasty Keys restaurant. I pointed out everything to my coworkers. There’s St. John’s Church–the Church of Presidents–where I attended as kid. Wait, see the building next to it? My stepfather’s hotel was just a block down from there. See that reporter on the corner? One of the restaurants I worked for is right there! Blair House? Yeah, I walked by it everyday to and from work.
Which prompted one of my coworkers to ask, “Do you have any famous people stories from DC?” I had many, mostly uncanny brushes with the powerful of the past, a result of growing up in such an odd city with connected parents, and later raising kids in the same setting. I surprised even myself this morning as I told one account after another–a black apron tied tight around my hips, a pot of coffee at the ready, and feeling so many miles away from the place that had been my home forever.
No, I would not have wanted to brave the Metro on this day. No, I would have hated standing for hours in the frosty cold on this day. But yes, I would have done both. And yes, I felt homesick all day because I hadn’t. Couldn’t.
On a day that I ached to be in my hometown, my current hometown restaurant was quite suddenly sold. The owner who hired me is done–gone–as of three this afternoon. Will the new owners keep me–the newbie green gal who can barely juggle four tables at once? I have no idea.
On such an incredible day for our country, I felt simply and horribly homesick. And later, I simply felt sick. But, as I have to believe, it’s all going to be okay. It’s a day of new beginnings, right?