Through a Child’s Eyes: Inauguration

Because my column deadline is Wednesday morning, I didn’t write last week about the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Now that I’ve had plenty of time to watch and read about and ponder the whole thing, I’m ready.

What I think about the inauguration ceremony and accompanying celebration is this: it was exactly what this country needed. Dignified. Civilized. Classy. And colorful. Oh so very colorful. Jill Biden’s blue. Kamala Harris’s purple. Michelle Obama’s maroon. Amanda Gorman’s yellow. And let’s not forget Lady Gaga’s red hoop skirt.

The music, from the aforementioned Lady Gaga’s thrilling rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to Jennifer Lopez’s wonderful “This Land Is Your Land/America the Beautiful” to Garth Brooks (who, thank goodness, really did show up in boots) leading a congregational singing of “Amazing Grace,” was perfect. The speeches were inspiring. The poem “The Hill We Climb,” written and read by 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, was amazing. It suddenly made poetry cool.

And who could have imagined that Bernie Sanders sitting in a folding chair and bundled in a winter coat and hand-knit mittens would become a viral sensation? Clearly, it was the belly laugh we all craved.

This was the first time that five out of six of my grandchildren were old enough to watch and perhaps understand what a Presidential inauguration is. Though their parents had shielded them from the violence and destruction of January 6, they wanted them to watch the peaceful transfer of power that we all hoped would happen two weeks later.

June, my six-year-old granddaughter who lives in Kentucky, was camped out in front of the TV when the festivities started. I should interject here that June adores all animals, but especially dogs. Because she doesn’t have a dog of her own, she’s eager for me to get Covid-vaccinated and head up to her house for a visit. Not only because we haven’t seen each other in a long time, but mostly because I’ll be taking my new dog Kamala with me when I go.

Daughter Leigh was explaining to June what was happening on TV. They talked about what an oath of office is. They talked about the masks everyone was wearing, though there’s likely not a child in the United States, including June, who doesn’t know about masks. Most of all, they talked about what a huge deal it is that a woman would be Vice President for the first time in American history. “In a few minutes, Kamala is going to walk out onto the stage,” Leigh said, “and she’ll be wearing a pretty purple coat.”

“Is Marmie there, too?” June asked. (Marmie is my grandma name, chosen because–when my daughters were young and read “Little Women” for the first time—they told me they wished I went by Marmie instead of Mama. Now I do.)

“No, sweetie,” Leigh said. “Marmie’s not in Washington, D.C. She’s in Tennessee.”

June’s eyes grew big. “You mean Marmie let Kamala go to Washington without her?”

And there you have it. The perfect snapshot of why it’s hard to explain history and current events to a kindergartner. Maybe impossible. Even though June and I had Facetimed at length about why I chose the name Kamala for my new dog, apparently none of the she’s-named-after-our-new female Vice President stuck. In June’s mind, Kamala is a dog, not a person. It made perfect sense to her that I would be in D.C. with Kamala for the inauguration. And it was perfectly believable that a dog would walk onto the stage at the U.S. Capitol wearing a pretty purple coat.

The 2021 Presidential inauguration was, indeed, one for the ages. Especially in the mind of a six year old.

(January 30, 2021)