We awoke this morning feeling as many Americans did, a subtle sense of anticipation was in the air as we looked forward to the changing of the guard in Washington, D.C.. Kenny and Josh were not as aware of the historic events of the day, but Matthew, Dominick and I all were conscious of the meaning of what was taking place. I planned to volunteer in Matthew's class this morning, and he and I both wore our Obama shirts as we readied ourselves for school. I was hoping his teacher would show the inauguration in class, and had he been unable to do so I was prepared to check Matt out of school for a couple of hours to bring him home so we could watch it together. I was so pleased to learn that we would indeed be watching it in class, as his teacher felt as I did that this was a piece of history not to be missed.
At the appointed hour I found myself in my own private historic moment. In the darkened classroom with the images of the Capital displayed on the big screen before me, I sat with my arm around my son as several of my Cub Scouts and even a sister of one sat surrounding me. A sea of eager young faces was present, an array of color from white to dark brown and most of whom I have known since Kindergarten. What did Barack Obama's fourth grade teacher think of him? Surely it would have come as a great surprise that a young black boy sitting in front of him or her would one day find himself on the steps of our Capital being sworn in as the next President of the United States. As I gazed into the eyes of the children at my feet I wondered what great things they were capable of and where their own lives would take them.
Would our brief time in their lives help them in some way to achieve their dreams? Would they look back one day and see being in Scouts as somehow formative? Has having a loving arm around them or a gentle nudge to become a young man of greater character somehow influenced them positively? Has one of them been helped to excel in school by having the added involvement of a caring parent working with them?
If so, then the hours of effort and volunteered time was never in vain, even if it doesn't lead to one of them becoming President. Maybe they will become the best trash collector in town who has a loving family and takes care of them responsibly, and even then I will feel as if my life amounted to something more significant than merely having taken up space here on this earth.
But while those thoughts flashed quickly through my mind, by far the thought that took precedent was that I wouldn't have wanted to be any other place at that specific moment in time. As Matt's teacher and I talked about earlier together with the class, we each remember where we were when the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded (and he was in a MUCH YOUNGER grade than I was! Hahaha!), or what we were doing the moment we learned about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. For the self-created DVD of my life that will live forever in my memory, this day too will be a Red Letter day, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Arm around Matthew, he and I whispered back and forth talking about what was going on at the inauguration. We listened to Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma as they performed a piece and as the other kids laughed at the cellist's name I was explaining to Matthew who they were and how profoundly talented the group on stage was. Suddenly, Matthew's face lit up as he realized he recognized the tune they were playing from a song he had learned at summer camp and he quietly whispered the words as these extraordinarily talented musicians played totally unaware that across the country in a 4th grade classroom a little boy was touched by the John Williams composition they were performing. The look upon his upturned innocent face gently lit by the soft reflected light from the screen was a "keeper", and will be tucked away in my brain's memory box forever.
As the swearing in progressed I was asked some interesting questions by the young children surrounding me..."Where is President Bush going to live?", "Do you think someone is going to shoot President Obama because he is black?", "Do you think he is scared right now?" and from Matthew, "If there is a swearing in ceremony for the new President, is there a swearing out ceremony for the old President?".
The live streaming video was a bit herky jerky on screen, but it made for a more interesting version of Obama's speech. Each time the image halted for a few seconds, the students all tried to finish what Obama was saying. Very often they were able to correctly anticipate what the next word or phrase was, showing that they already had some understanding of Obama's vision for our country.
The adults in the room kept emphasizing for the kids that they could feel like they were really there in DC along with the millions of others, and embracing that thought the kids stood up at the appropriate times, applauded with vigor, and at the end when our Star Spangled Banner was played they proudly sang with an enthusiasm never before heard during their usual morning routine.
The lights came on, the kids from the other class who had joined us filtered out, and I rode to leave myself when Matthew grabbed on to my arm and said "Mommy, please stay longer...please!!", and as a few other classmates took up the plea I looked at the clock and realized that the stack of bills waiting for me to pay and the dishes in the sink could wait.
There was nothing more important than what I was being asked to do right then.