Oakley’s snores woke me up. He’d been at day care the afternoon before. That was Tuesday, so that meant that this was Wednesday. And not just any Wednesday.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
Inauguration Day. The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris was finally here.
That realization made me fly out of bed like a sugared-up toddler on Christmas morning. After four excruciating years, we were getting a new president. Make tea. Tend to Oakley despite his judgmental stare as I danced around the kitchen island while I mixed up his breakfast. Scrawl a few lines in my journal while watching the apricot and gold sun rise in the space between the blinds over the family room window.
Turn on the TV. There was the minor distraction of shipping President Biden’s predecessor off to Florida in his last flights in Marine One and Air Force One after a ceremony designed to give his ego one last inflation before taking off with the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing as the plane taxied down the runway and rose into the sky.
And then the networks returned us to the quiet but troop-lined streets of Washington, D.C. and video of the Bidens attending a church service before heading over to the Capitol for the ceremony. Scaled back due to COVID and still open wounds from the insurrection on January 6, but just like the country itself, going on in spite of it all. No balls planned for that evening, not much of a parade except the motorcade from the Capitol to the White House accompanied by the Howard University and University of Delaware marching bands, but the day would be marked to forge the link in the chain of history stretching back to George Washington and the other founders of the the republic.
And considering the circumstances, that was OK.
We had a couple of snacks, and I plied myself with tea as we watched the Bidens, the Harris-Emhoffs, and the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons make their ways to where they needed to be. There was a cutaway offering visual proof that the predecessor had landed, but not a long one. They quickly refocused on the Capitol and the history unfolding there as well as the fun bits, such as Dr. Jill Biden’s and VP Harris’ dresses and Michelle Obama’s pantsuit (damn, I’d wear that) and coat, and this historical tidbit and that bite of trivia.
And then, finally, here we were. A Marine escorted Lady Gaga (speaking of outfits–hers needs to be enshrined at the Smithsonian both for the sheer Gaga-ness of it and its nod to the ladies of the past with the design harkening back to the early days of the country). Took the mic, and oh, did I get chills when she performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”
And when she pointed to the flag when she reached the line “that the flag was still there,” I choked up. I usually don’t have strong reactions to patriotic music, but the relief of surviving the last four years without nuclear weapons getting brought into play and the prior fourteen days with troops in the DC streets due to the ongoing threats of insurrection part two had to come out sometime.
And then the tears welled again when VP Harris took her Oath of Office. Finally, a woman, a woman of color, was at that level. After the debacle in 2016 and the repressive sexist tones of that regime I didn’t know if I would ever see a woman in that level of government in my lifetime. But there she was with a strong supportive man at her side.
And then, finally, President Biden took his oath. Would we get through this, or would his predecessor send a nasty distraction from Florida? No, nothing happened. He took his oath, and somewhere between the fading of the last line, “So help me God,” and taking his hand off his Bible, and the applause, the world became a much brighter place.
I collapsed like a limp rag for a few moments, then put a pizza in the oven for our inaugural celebration. I don’t know what the Bidens and Harris-Emhoffs had, but I doubt that fast food was involved.
The ceremony ended with Amanda Gorman reading her poem “The Hill We Climb.” For there is always light/If we’re brave enough to see it/If we’re brave enough to be it.
I whispered a prayer thanking the Mystery for all the people who had stood up to the predecessor and his minions. Prayed that in the light of things that need to be fixed that I could be a light down these pocked and pitted roads.
President Biden started righting the ship of state that afternoon by signing a stack of executive orders and issuing a mask mandate running concurrently with his first 100 days in office. And that night, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, gave a briefing about the first afternoon under this administration.
As the day wrapped up with a show of socially distanced performances that closed with President and Dr. Jill Biden walking out onto the balcony and looking towards the Washington Monument, I felt for the first time in oh, say, four years that things are going to be OK. There’s a lot of work ahead, but if everyone can grab a rope, a dust rag, a laptop and get busy doing their part, we’ll get the lights that make us a beacon of hope back on sooner rather than later.