Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Salad

The unpacking could wait. It was our first day back in San Pancho and Irma, our housekeeper, wanted to talk politics. Dispensing with chit-chat, she asked, “Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?”

“Obama, I hope.”

“What about your family and friends?” she asked, “Are they going to vote for him?”

“They are,” I said. “There’s a lot of support for him in our community.”

But then I laughed, thinking about my ninety-five year old mother who refused to disclose her decision right up to the day I left.

“I’m undecided, “she said slyly. "

Undecided? My mother was the only undecided voter I knew. But how could she, a lifelong Democrat, desert us now? I tell Irma about my mother but also about my friend at the library who spent every weekend in Iowa with the Obama campaign, going door to door to register voters.

“It’s complicated and certainly not a sure thing,” I added. “What do you think, Irma?”

“I would vote for him.” she said, firmly. “I really want him to win. He’s the best person and he’ll be good for Mexico and the United States.”

Election fever was alive and well on the Mexico side of the border. When we visited friends, election news dominated every conversation. And with only days to go, we unapologetically stayed tuned to CNN. We hung on the polls, the blather of the commentators, the red and blue projections. My email overflowed with links to serious op-ed pieces and YouTube. Worried emails, panicked emails, hopeful emails crowded my inbox; passions spilled across the screen.

Not all our fellow Obama supporters had TV and we couldn’t face election night alone. We called, we invited, we offered a ham and potato salad dinner, and, as people said “yes,” the group grew from five to ten to fifteen. It seemed there was a mutual need to spend this evening together.

And so we gathered, collecting in small groups. Platters of food heaped the table; Nancy’s “Obama salad,” as she called it, Jim’s salsa, Faby’s apple torte. Some of us stayed glued to the television as if seeing would be believing. Others ate for comfort the table, just within sight and earshot. Out of view, some others, too nervous, found the patio their place of choice. Bad news would not dare to reach them there.

It was early, too early; many states had not yet reported, we were cautioned. Wolf Blitzer didn’t dare call it yet, but we knew. We could do the math. Scenes from Grant Park in Chicago, our home town, made us cheer. Illuminating the night sky, the mammoth screen said it all, Barack Obama, President-elect.

Faces from around the globe gave us even greater joy – people in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East – all of us witnessing a historic moment, all of us celebrating. That night we were as perfect as Nancy’s Obama salad...a bright colorful mix, a medley of flavors, together in San Pancho.

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