February 5th, 2008, at 5:55 pm, after 20 minutes of cluelessly circling our destination, my 1990 red Subaru Legacy wagon honed in on all the other Subaru’s at The Nick, (not Mark), Begich Middle School parking lot in East Anchorage. Whoa, Fred Meyer’s the day before Christmas had nothing on this mess. The admission cut off was 6 pm. Shocks shrieked as we skimmed over snowy speed jumps and landed in front of a dumpster.
“Sorry”, I called back as I sprinted off to do my civic duty. My car is sensitive.
I had never been to a Democratic caucus. Who in Anchorage has? I read that about 250 people voted the last time. I would raise my hand to support Hilary Clinton then drive away in my tired vehicle for a delicious snack. What I encountered inside blew my sheltered, middle aged, middle class, white lady mind. I was swallowed up in a wave from a sea of young people of many colors.
Where did all these Democrats come from? Who got all these new voters signed up? Where can I anchor myself in this youth storm? Whoa, panic attack!
I focused on breathing. There were way more people in that gym than fire code would allow. It was a new building, but hey, it had a wooden floor somewhere under all those feet. Confession: I stayed because there had to be a few eligible men floating around somewhere. I spotted my tiny district #26 flag bobbing in the human flood, found my red headed, blue voting neighbor Bonnie Lynn. I got my sea legs.
The crowd quieted as someone rose to explain the procedure. Each district should tread lightly towards their appointed classroom. Upon arrival we would determine which candidate our district supported. District #26 wound up squashed in an upstairs corner. After I spied the large proportion of wedding rings on the male members of my crew, we were swept out into a larger area.
“Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama, choose a side”
Every person of color and everyone under 30 migrated to the other side of the room. I had a flashback. My father, born in 1919, and a Republican politician in New England, took my older brother to hear Martin Luther King speak because he was the new voice of America. I didn’t know who Barack Obama was and I wasn’t going to admit it, but I knew which side of the room I belonged on. I abandoned Bonnie Lynn and sprinted for the second time this evening, this time over to the future. I felt breathless, not because I was out of shape, but because I was part of history. I was in the new wave. I felt that zing of being in the moment. What would my sensible car say to that?
I left within minutes, avoiding the parking lot tsunami. I’m sure Bonnie Lynn floated over to Obama soon after I did. The snow was a little sparklier by the dumpster. My car was without police decoration. Despite the chill, my ancient auto hummed all the way home without challenging my giddiness and self-satisfaction. I sang along.
Super Tuesday in Anchorage renewed my faith in seasons, currents and tides. I am part of a complex ecology. Anchorage may not dress in the forefront of fashion. We may drive beater cars, but we are not immune from the pull of the greater tide of humanity. More than 3800 people voted at that school. I bet at least a hundred more turned away when they saw the parking lot. We were not alone.
My Subaru didn’t make it through Obama’s second term. It finally beached in my district #26 driveway, under the carport, safe from the seagulls of Westchester Lagoon. I’m still single. I hope the forecast is for better winds in the opposite direction. I can depend on change even while it steals my breath. While I’m waiting, I bought another Subaru.
This is an essay I’m working on for the Anchorage Remembers Project – an intersection between memoir and history. Comments welcome or submit a story yourself!