January 20, 2009

By The Time We Got To Obamastock

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The kid and I went to the inauguration this morning. We had no stroller ourselves, but decided to avoid the stroller-hating mob on the Mall and head straight for the Lincoln Memorial. I thought that'd be a good place for the kid to remember being, which was kind of the point of going at all.

Great minds think alike, because not only was the view as fantastic as the crowds were manageable, but we found ourselves surrounded by families, kids, strollers, and babies. A dad and his 2-yo twins plopped down on the grass right next to us, and right before the swearing-in started, a young family of four, with a 6-mo kid in a multilayered Graco terrarium installed themselves just down the hill. They pulled the kid out of her cocoon for about twenty seconds as they handed their camera to a stranger to take their family photo, Lincoln Memorial in the background. By the time they bundled her back up, Biden was already Vice President.

A few minutes into Obama's speech, the kid turned and asked when she was going to get to ride on my shoulders. That turned out to be what she'd been waiting for all morning. So I hoisted her up, we watched a few more minutes of the speech, and then we headed out. A ten minute walk to GW Hospital along a mostly empty street where National Guard troops outnumbered civilians, and we hailed the first cab we saw. Amazingly, he pulled over, we hopped in, and were home in five minutes. We were literally the only car in Rock Creek Parkway, and one of three cars on Connecticut Avenue. It felt like being the President.

If anything surprised the kid at all, it seems that it was the crowd chanting "Obama Obama" about ten minutes before the event started. We could hear the chants on the Jumbotron, and then a few seconds later, the live Obama rumble reached us from the other side of the Washington Monument. It cracked her up.

What cracked me up was hearing someone calling my name as we walked to the Mall. It turned out to be a friend, Zach, who was biking to meet his wife and almost 1-yo son, who'd already gotten their spot. The idea of running into people you know in the middle of a massive sea of humanity just added to the slightly surreal joy of the occasion.

Which is all well and good, but it's been almost three hours, and President Obama hasn't sent anyone to put the laundry into the dryer.

end of day update: yeah, well. The kid was pretty much a basket case all day, ready to pout and growl and grimace on a dime, with no explanation. We talked about it, and figured she was overstressed, overwhelmed by the whole thing--the crowds, the anticipation, the emotions, the weather, the physical exertion, the idea [planted by our precautions about what to do if we got separated] that she might get separated from her dad in a massive crowd. It's a lot for a 4-year-old to take in.

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