Role Models

When the notification about Joe Biden finally being called as president-elect on Saturday morning we whooped and high-fived and danced around the house. The somatic experience of the day surprised me most as a heavy brick in my chest began to loosen. 

There was a lot of scrolling and texting over the subsequent hours, posting in lieu of getting together to celebrate. How to share moments during a pandemic, a continual challenge. Later risers woke up to the sounds of horns and neighbors hollering. Musician friends penned songs on the spot and uploaded them to their socials. Oaklanders danced in the streets. I went outside on my suburban streets to pull some weeds and smiled and waved at any dog walkers who passed. So much energy released. Woohoo was all I could say for a while. 

Later, when I watched the Kamala Harris and Biden give their acceptance speeches, I couldn’t help but cry. Especially Kamala. She’s the same age as my sisters. I felt proud as well as relieved. 

The next night, it was back to my usual 2020 sleep pattern. I woke up in the middle of the night worried again. 3am my phone told me, which I kept in hand to read the latest Heather Cox Richardson letter and an article in The Atlantic about all those people who voted for Trump anyway. Outside it was 43 degrees. 
Amid the 3am scroll, I saw a collage of photos of little girls watching Harris deliver her speech. They all appeared riveted, as much as I was, and I could feel their inspiration. The power of role models cannot be overstated. 

I remember being 8 years old and watching Dorothy Hamill win her Olympic gold medal. We sometimes went roller skating in Santa Cruz but the nearest ice rink was in San Jose. Still, I got the same wedge haircut and ‘skated’ around the kitchen linoleum for months afterward, swirling my hair just so. 
When I was looking for another the day after my sleepless night, I happened upon a photo of my champion Little League team. I’m standing in the back row next to my coach, Travis. Another player, Manny, is standing between me and my brother. I’m 10 years old, the only girl on the team, one of two in the league. My Dorothy Hamill cut is grown out. 
Because I had two sisters and my brother was the only boy, my mom told me she’d drive him to baseball practice but wouldn’t do that and take me to the ballet class the other girls at school were taking. I could sit in the car or try out for Little League. For years, my brother and I played catch in the driveway. I was as good or better than anyone else in the league, as I’d prove shortly. Still I ruffled a lot of feathers just by stepping onto the field. Boys teased each other about getting tagged out by a girl. Parents groused about their sons being benched while I got to play second base. I was sad, but it made me more determined. I knew I was as good as the boys. 
One day, the great San Francisco Giants player Willie McCovey was visiting the league during an important game. The bases were loaded when I stepped up to bat and connected solidly with a pitch, hitting it high over left field. My brother, for the most part my ally, told me later he prayed it wouldn’t go out of the park. It didn’t, though my triple helped win the game. 

I don’t remember it making much of an impression on McCovey. But I didn’t care. I was playing to stay in the game. To not be relegated to a back seat before I had a chance to try. 

It’s disheartening to learn how many people are already slandering Harris. Who voted against the ticket just because of the fact of her. But mainly I feel like I did as an eight-year-old, taking more courage from her achievement (and all the staying in the game she’s had to do up until now that it demonstrates), and redetermining to show up fully in my own life. And I’m excited to see what all those little girls who are watching her will do next. 

 

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