Tuesday Jan. 17, 5:53 pm
Minneapolis-St Paul Airport
We’ll be lifting off shortly—all collectively choosing to act like flying through the air in a metal, bird-shaped contraption is unremarkable. I wonder at the impeccable patience of flight attendants. While their cheery disposition is at times terrifying, their perfectly folded pocket napkins are oddly comforting. My mom sits beside me in the window seat. This was her idea. We’re on our way to Washington D.C. to join the Women’s March on Washington. I remembered to pack my rain jacket and my mom brought hand warmers. I suppose that means we’re as ready as we’ll ever be. When asked her thoughts on the onset of our odyssey, my mom answers, “Now is the time for storytelling”.
Wednesday Jan. 18, 9:46 am
U.S. Capitol Grounds
I wonder whose idea it was to construct a reflection pool in the midst of all these cold towers. What a dreamer they must have been. The wind has picked up and clips the surface of the water. My mom, brother, and I sit on stairs facing out and the sunshine bounces off the white marble, almost as blinding as snow. We are surrounded by port-o-potties that bear the logo“Don’s Johns.” We snicker when we notice this, entertained by the fact that someone has applied blue tape to each and every one, attempting to block the logo from view. One enthusiastic dissenter has taken it one step further and scribbled “Trump Tower.” The capitol building stands regally overhead, though one corner of the American flag has come loose from the center flagstaff. We watch in silence as a maintenance crew struggles to reattach it. “Probably not a good sign,” my brother notes.
Thursday Jan. 19, 11:59 pm
I’m lying on a blowup mattress in a living room, trying to fall asleep. Inauguration is in less than 12 hours. Mom’s already “asleep” but I sort of think she’s faking it. We’ll be staying with one of her best friends, Anne, for the rest of our trip. Whenever my mom is reunited with Anne, they both fling their arms in the air and sort of curl their torsos in as they run toward each other. They always start laughing as soon as they hug, about nothing in particular. They squeeze into each other and rock side to side with their eyes closed. They’ve done this for as long as I can remember. I have friends with whom I do the exact same thing. Other close friends are staying here as well—Loralee and Luchia. We trade hellos and hugs. True female friendship makes you want to curl in and explode out all at the same time. We laugh when we are reunited, I think, because there is so much to say and yet we’re right back here again and we aren’t alone anymore.
Friday Jan. 20, 5:20 pm
Ann bought poster board and we’ve taken to the paint and markers to write messages in giant letters. “We will be vigilant, but not afraid”—a Barack Obama quote. “Pussies have claws,” says another. I use all the colors I can find to shade in the words “a woman’s place is in the revolution.” Perhaps only a woman can understand the true definition of revolution—the toppling of systems and governments, sure, but also the cycles of life and the revolving door of the human condition. Every month, our bodies revolve, shed lining and build again. A mother has felt parts of her own insides revolve into another human being. We learn early on how to fit our round edges into the square pegs of cultural expectations, but our bodies move in circles whether we like it or not. Tomorrow we will march in honor of that.
Saturday Jan. 21, 11:02 am
Masses of people snake up the broken escalators at L’Enfant Plaza. Emerging from the underground tunnel, there is a sudden rush of sunlight and my eyes adjust to see endless pink hats speckle the thick crowd. Mom grips tightly onto my jacket hood so as not to be swept away. My mind scrambles to comprehend the numbers but fails, and our gaze follows the thousands of faces pointed toward giant screens. We watch speakers and musicians whose voices echo twice before reaching us where we stand. The back of my throat aches with a heaviness I can’t seem to place. My heart beats fast. There’s pulsing in my toes. I gaze out, squinting my eyes, and register how my ribcage feels like it’s expanding out from my sternum. I worry that I’m having an anxiety attack or that I’m about to faint. After a moment, I realize: It’s hope. I am feeling hopeful—a hopefulness so pure it hurts.
Constitution and 15th
With an unfocused gaze, the crowd writhes like a single entity—a slippery body moving in every direction. The people are like salmon in a river. The stream’s current has no end and pushes out in every way. A river of individuals, each person walks into history differently. Mothers and daughters of every shape, color, and creed pass by. Fathers, brothers, and friends have come together too. I think of Mary Wollstonecraft, the Grimké sisters, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott and Alice Paul—names and legacies that too often go untaught. I honor the sacrifice these women made and also acknowledge the imperfections of past feminist movements. We are wrapped in the blanket of history, but perhaps this wave will finally get it right—will lift up the inherent intersectionality of the world as it moves forward. Our hands are cold and our lower backs ache, but still, a little girl holding a green balloon smiles; spontaneous cheers break out; and we revel in the possibility of democracy as old men, in this very city, try to sign our freedoms away. How could a single man’s signature block this tide? Even when the crowd becomes too thick to walk, the people shuffle—forward, forward, forward.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
We’ve arrived at the White House. The lights are on and someone’s home, of course. The chants increase in volume. “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away,” the people yell, over and over. I wonder what it sounds like from inside the White House walls. The manicured lawn is so stark compared to the eclectic masses. The contrast is eerie and surreal and gives me chills. Earlier in the day, one of the co-chairs of the women’s march, Linda Sarsour, exclaimed, “I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this president of the United States of America,” putting an ineffable feeling into language for many of us.
Eventually, our small faction runs across the road to use the port-o-potties. When we recongregate, Anne’s husband, Bill, comes back laughing. He tells us how the lady next to him had exclaimed, “Ugh! I just peed on myself!” to which the lady in the port-o-potty on the other side of him responded, “Golden shower!” We all laugh. As we jump back into the fluid stream of marching people, I turn to my brother and say, “I can’t get over how peaceful this protest is.” “Think about it,” he answers, “everyone is here with their moms.”
We’re standing on the Green Line on a jam-packed train. We’ve been stopped for 40 minutes or so. Word on the underground is this was the biggest inaugural protest in history—some say 500,000; others say a million. Undoubtedly, there are many women here who have never marched before, who stayed silent when called on by Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock for support. There will be smart, eloquent people who will criticize this march. I will remember what it felt like to be here today and also do my best to listen and learn from those voices. As we wait, a woman from Belfast tells us that she attended the Inauguration yesterday and the Women’s March today. “The fear and drudgery I saw yesterday is not sustainable,” she says. “Today was more than sustainable. This is the sort of feeling that grows and grows.” My throat starts to ache again as I look around. Individuals can be moved by fear and selfishness, of course. But humanity is defined by resilience, creativity, and love. I cry for the first time since arriving, reflecting on the privilege of witnessing this moment, of the privilege it will be to continue standing beside women who exude such ferocity and eloquence in equal parts.
Mist falls quietly in Maryland as the car crawls up Anne’s driveway. We sit together in the kitchen, reminiscing on powerful moments and our favorite signs while drinking homemade lemonade. We sporadically scroll through the screens of our respective tablets, fawning over the photos of our sisters across the globe. “100,000 in Minnesota!” my mom exclaims. We are utterly exhausted and still electrified. Photos of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, London, Oslo, and Boise take our breath away. Did anyone guess how many would come?
Sunday Jan. 22, 5:56 am
Crusty-eyed, we rise in the morning to fly away, back to whence we came, back to our daily lives where the real work will be done. My mom offers trail mix as we wait to board the plane and the taste of a dried cranberry sends shock signals to my still-sleeping brain. We pass the flight attendants to find our seats and a stewardess asks, “Did you march yesterday?” when she sees the rolled-up protest poster tucked under my mom’s arm. Prompted by our nods, the flight attendant leans forward and smiles, “Thank you for marching for us.” We nod again enthusiastically. “Of course,” we answer, while a woman behind us chimes in, “and the work continues!”