Sunday, February 15, 2009

A New Day in More Ways Than One

I’ve been on “Blog Break” for the past month due to life stuff. So, let’s play a little catch up.

JANUARY 20 – “Sunshine and Smiles”

The Inauguration was wonderful. As Amtrak neared DC on Inauguration Day, a wonderful gentleman named Lamar was my seat mate as the train left the Aberdeen, Maryland station. We were both VERY EXCITED to be a part of history and like mindedly embraced the day as lone adventurers, unencumbered by companions and thus able to find a choice spot on the National Mall.

I was a witness to history and I’ll never forget it. True to form, I maneuvered to about 20 feet from our New First Family at the start of the parade route, on Delaware Street right by the US Capitol.

The moment was priceless and will be forever etched in my memory. With my own eyes, I saw the ENTIRE Obama family up close and personal in USA 1, the new Cadillac fortress limo. The President, his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia all looked at my direction of the crowd and waved. As our new President flashed his signature smile I caught my breath and took it all in.

I was honored to be among the first few million Americans he saw after officially being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

And, it was an honor to just be among the crowd and WITNESS people of all ages who braved the cold to witness the warmth of the historic moment. It was literally the huddled masses, which included people of all creeds, occupations and levels of mobility (some were in wheelchairs; others were nearly carried by persons on either side of them), united in spirit the hope of a new day.

The crowd was immense; the crowd was America – Black, Caucasian, Asian, Native American and every other mix on the map. It’s hard to explain, I’m just glad I was there to witness “the moment” when an African American man, about my age (actually three years younger) took the oath of office and ascended to the most powerful job on the planet.

As one bystander joyfully exclaimed, “Today is all smiles and sunshine!”

BTW -- no tickets were needed. One of my mottos is, don’t EVER let a ticket hold you back. Go for it; you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in this life. And yes, I even composed myself to snap a few pictures! Don’t get caught up in the process; forge ahead and make your own progress. Often, rules are meant to keep you out. Your charge is often figuring out a legal way to maneuver the system, and make it work for you.

This wonderful day ended similar to how it began. That evening, as the train rolled out of Union Station, I was joined by Peggy, another New Yorker like myself. We marveled at our personal brush with history and she relayed the kindness of a friendly security guard who escorted her to a private screening room on the National Mall when she strained to position herself for the noontime swearing in of the nation’s first African American president.


(quotes are from LSJ unless otherwise noted)

"God works in mysterious ways. The older I get, the more I know that's true.”
-- Peggy, my Amtrak seat mate

“I have the feeling that family members from generations had a chance to see the new President through me.”

“The massive wave of bodies must have been what it was like to march in Selma and other cities during the Civil Rights movement—move on, keep marching.”

“It’s truly amazing. Slaves built the Capitol and now an African American man is in charge of the House, the Senate, the States, the People.”

“How wonderful to pass the Library of Congress and remember fond memories of library visits with my father.”

“The Supreme Court building brings back memories of all the lawyers in my family, my Dad, my Grandmother, my Great-Grandfather. This day belongs to them.”

“Supreme beings directed me to be in just the right place at just the right time to see the new President, which calls up memories of my Mother’s gift for gab and listening skills, speaking to people and having the faith to literally will your rights into existence.”

“Always be ready to change.”
-- important as I shifted position to the corner of Delaware as the Inaugural procession began, allowing me to be less than 20 feet away from President Barack Obama

“This is a once in a lifetime experience. We can’t deny citizens that. Plant your feet firmly in the ground and enjoy the moment!”
-- friendly female US Capitol Police officers who encouraged the crowd to shore up their position without pushing, as everyone jockeyed for position to see the new Commander in Chief

“President Obama didn’t even have a teleprompter—it was a wonderful inaugural address; you could tell he really meant what he was saying. It’s always best to just speak from the heart.”
-- Philip Morse, Chief, US Capitol Police

SCOTT: Service, Community, Opportunity & Training in Tidewater

That evening, on a serious political high, my husband Roland met me at the door with news that my mother, Juanita T. Scott, died that morning after a lengthy illness. Alas, I left for DC on Amtrak before daybreak and turned my cell phone off to enjoy the moment.

Good thing I did.

I was able to focus on “the moment” of Inauguration Day, hail the new chief and regale in the splendor. Yes, that’s what my mother would have wanted. Although we didn’t always agree, she was unconditionally supportive of my goals throughout the years.

While somewhat bittersweet, I will always have meteoric and historic reflections of the day she died. It’s actually a wonderful, participatory memory. And, for family members and friends, the day is pretty much emblazoned in their minds, another cool, huge tribute to my mother.

As my grandmother Lucille B. Thorpe remarked before she died a few years ago, “In the end … it’s all just a memory anyway.”

Great advice for dealing with “passages” of time, death, loss, destruction and disappointment. First and foremost, we all must take care of our responsibilities and build wonderful memories with those around us, and have faith. This way we have something to lean on when we’re down.

One thing is for sure, my mother’s affairs were buttoned up, zip locked and airtight. No mess to wade through; everything’s in order; bills were paid until the day before.

The lesson for those she left behind: Handle your business!

Alas, that’s the reason why I’ve been AWOL for a few weeks. Interesting how life is a series of passages and transitions. The trick is to keep going, learn the lessons, accept what comes your way and pass on what you know so others can benefit from your “missteps.”

I’ve come to understand death isn’t a bad thing; folks are finally at peace. Isn’t that all we’re ever after? Doesn’t everyone deserve rest and peace? I take solace in the fact that through lung and bone cancer, my mother fought a good fight. When you’re so tired that you can’t fight any more, then you have to let go and move on … to a “higher” plane, a “better” place.

In my parents’ honor and in tribute to our new President, my brother Fred and I created a fund that will be administered by Hampton, Virginia’s Third Baptist Church; our parents collectively were members for more than a century.

Juanita & Fred SCOTT
Service, Community, Opportunity & Training in Tidewater*
*area encompassing neighboring cities

Life is a series of passages and life is sweet. I’m excited about what the rest of 2009 will bring!