We woke up at 6:30, when it was still dark out, an unusually early hour for both of us. While the rest of the family slept, we dressed hurriedly; I shoveled oatmeal in my mouth as I packed our backpack with waters and snacks. Our friends were with us, and we gathered in the driveway while I vacuumed crumbs out of the minivan, where the carseat had been recently removed to make room for us all. There were seven of us in the minivan, four mothers and three daughters, ages 8-10. After a requisite coffee stop, we made it to the light rail station in Golden in what we thought would be plenty of time to catch the train that left half an hour later.
We were wrong. But it was the most fantastic inconvenience. The line to buy light rail tickets stretched from the kiosks back to the parking garage, and it was a sight that brought tears to my eyes. Mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, grandmothers, young women with friends, the crowd expanded minute by minute. We found our people and continued to add more to our group, not caring who paid for the tickets as long as we could have a brief group transaction and board a train.
When the train we had planned to be on left without us, the people packed inside it waved at us and we waved back, and I cried. Not because we weren’t on the train; we beamed at each other with pride and solidarity and gratitude, these strangers, my close friends, our children, and I. When the next train left without us, I waved as ferociously and happily as I had the first time, and I cried again. When the third train left, we were on it, our daughters wedged on our laps, and we frantically waved at the crowd and they waved back, with as much love as we had given the previously departing crowd. I cried even more. There would be many more trains full of people after us.
When a friend first asked me if I would be bringing my oldest daughter, I am embarrassed to say I responded instantly with a sharp, “No!” I’m not sure what exactly my initial reluctance was. Safety, fear, not sure what I would be exposing her to? I didn’t consider the richness, the significance, the responsibility of the experience and how it might shape her.
“Mommy?” she asked me. “If you won’t let me go to the march, will you take my shirt with you?” My husband and I changed our minds quickly. My daughter and I had some intense conversations prior to Saturday, and I knew bringing her was the right thing to do. Other friends decided to bring their daughters, too, and by the time we boarded the train that morning, we had 9 mothers and 8 children in our group.
I sat next to a grandmother who held her five-year-old granddaughter on her lap.
“I remember going to jail with my mother when we marched together in the 1960s.” she told me.
“How old were you?” I asked.
“13,” she replied.
Our daughters’ arms were scrawled with our phone numbers written in Sharpie, and we had strict rules about staying together and what we would do if we were separated. Miraculously, our large group (which we named the Elephants, a moniker chosen by one of the ten-year-olds. “Isn’t the Republican symbol an elephant?” someone asked. “Yes, but elephants travel in herds led by matriarchs,” I replied.” Today we can reclaim the elephant.”) stayed together the entire march. Some carried signs, and we chanted together.
Listening to our earnest daughters shouting, “This is what democracy looks like!” is an experience I will never forget.
Some of it she didn’t understand, but much she did. She understood that when a group of transgender ladies walked by us on the sidewalk, nobody stared or whispered, and instead everyone loudly cheered. She understood that when we passed a couple holding a sign in the back of their truck, they received only looks of love, not disgust.
She understood that gorgeous people of all colors, genders, ages, and orientations marched around us, and that the diversity was what made us powerful.
“We’re doing this for you,” a group of older women told my daughter. “You are surrounded by grandmas.”
“It’s the safest place there is,” I agreed. It was peaceful all around us. There was love, support, unity everywhere. I miss these strangers I marched with; I wish I could see them again.
My daughter is often very anxious that bad things will happen to people now that we have a new president. She is worried that friends will be forced out of our country, people won’t be able to marry who they love, families won’t be able to afford medical treatment, that there will be a war. Being surrounded by thousands of people who believed what we believe, who were willing to fight for what was right, was the ultimate comfort to her. “Remember this day when you feel frightened,” I told her. “Remember how many of us there were, and that we were only a fraction of people marching all around the world, on every continent.”
When it was time to leave and we needed to force our way through the crowd, against the flow, we held hands and made our way across, apologizing as we went. We were met with gracious people, assuring us it was all right, stepping back for us, helping us through. They were the nicest 100,000 people I have ever met. As we walked back to the light rail station, there were people just beginning the march. We passed the march route as we walked, circling around us on both sides, knowing it would continue for hours.
Two ladies in their sixties stood with us as we waited for the train. “You were a part of history,” they told my daughter. “You will remember this day forever.”
On social media, many people questioned the point of the marches. Weren’t women grateful to live in America? Some women even said their voices had always been heard, so why would they march?
Let me be clear: I am grateful. Grateful to live in this country; grateful to be an American. I am also privileged. Very, very privileged. My voice is usually heard. I am white; I am heterosexual and married. My children attend a wonderful public school in a good district. Our refrigerator and cupboards are full. We have health care and jobs. My daughter and I did not march for our privileged selves yesterday; we marched because so many others have been marginalized. As a country, we can no longer fight only battles that directly apply to our own lives.
And we marched because so many women—maybe even the majority—including myself, have been touched by men without giving our permission. And I don’t ever want my daughters or anyone else’s daughters to experience that.
When we got off the train, I immediately wanted to get back on it and start the morning all over again. It was one of the best days of my life.
To see a beautiful photo montage of marches around the world today, read this New York Times article.
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