Friday, May 14, 2010

The Indelible Date

On Saturday, at 2:30 in the morning, I found myself in one of the seediest place in New York City , Penn Station. At this time of hour its usually filled with drunk kids who've missed the last trains to Long Island, homeless people trying to catch a few zzz's, and lets not forget your garden variety weirdos/junkies/drunks who amble throughout the spacious transportation hub. And there are also your travelers. Of course I was part of the later group.

There's a train that leaves New York at 3am. And there was no amount of junkies, weirdos and such to stop me from boarding that train. I had a date. A date with history. A date with Obama.

During the tornado storm of my corporate divorce, I was notified of an opportunity of a lifetime. President Obama was speaking at the commencement ceremony of my alma mater, Hampton University on Mother's Day, and there was a lottery of 1,000 tickets given away online. Prior to the announcement of the lottery, I'd secretly wish there was a way I could go but hid it under the nightmare of it all - traffic, people, stress.. So when the lottery was announced it was as if my secret was laying the smackdown to my doubts. And then I won. I happened to score 2 tickets in the lottery. I was sooooo excited - greater than a kid in a candy store, more than a pig in shit. I was over the moon 10 times over.

When I boarded that train, my fatigue was greater than my excitement. The long work hours, the actual corporate closing, the constant on the go of the past couple of weeks finally caught up to me. I fell asleep way before the rocking of the train had a chance to lull me to la-la land. I have no recollection of dreams. I just slept. For hours, I was comatose. When I woke up, the sun was shining brightly, and the country side greenery had replaced my urban concrete. And just as quickly as the scenery had changed in my consciousness, my fatigue gave way to my excitement. I went to the bathroom to remove my headscarf and uncoil my hair (the ONLY time I have EVER left my house with the headscarf) to give myself something to do, a distraction if you will.

Finally, an hour late, my train pulled into the train station. And there he was. Baskin Robbins. Waiting for me. It felt like a scene from a movie. The warm breeze billowing my maxi dress and sweeping through my hair as I descended the train with my travel bag and walked towards him. He stood by his car, with his hands in his pockets, looking for me in the crowd. Since he's so tall, I spotted him first. I tried to hide my smile, rationalize that it was my excitement of finally getting here and one step closer to seeing Obama. Maybe I was right. Or highly delusional.

My excitement quickly gave way to pissivity. I arrived on campus to pick up my tickets to be told that I was on some waiting list and that I would have to come back. WHAT??!!! Stop the press!!! I came allllllll the way from New York to be told I was on a waiting list and that I needed to come back later in the day to pick up my alleged wait listed tickets on a first come first serve basis. That's not what my email said. It read "Congratulations" for goodness sake. This ladies and gents, is what I like to dub "BCBS" - Black College BullShit. Don't get me wrong. I LOVVVVVE MY SCHOOL. But as any attendee and/or graduate of a historically black college or university can tell you, there are some things that happen that you know is some bullshit that your counterparts at white institutions don't have to deal with, whether its a computer glitch (as in this case), the crappy food (Gourmet Services is an oxymoron), or the quintessential run-around, its all BCBS.

Luckily for me, my girl KP was able to pull some influential strings and secure a ticket for me. I couldn't thank her enough. As a matter of fact, days later and I'm still thanking her. Unfortunately that meant Baskin Robbins was without a ticket. I felt bad because he was my plus one but not so bad that I would give him my ticket. But I must admit, just between me you and the internets, there were times during the ceremony that I wish I had someone sitting there right beside me. Someone to share the moment with. But I digress. And if you repeat this I will deny, Deny, DENY. But I digress.

Earlier than I ever want to get up on a Sunday, my alarm goes off. While I was uber excited to head over to campus to see OUR president, my body was not having it. Especially since I was wrapped in chocolate. Being single doesn't offer many opportunities to cuddle. So when the opportunity arises, its like.....heaven. Seriously, I realize that I'm gonna need a cuddle clause in my pre-nup. But like Chuck D, I had to fight the powers that be. I had a date.

The commencement ceremony was outside on the football field. Since you could feel the excitement blowing in the wind once you arrived on campus, there was no way any building could contain all that positive energy. The graduates began to march in and there was a swell of pride rippling through the stadium. But every couple of seconds everyone kept looking towards the right side of the field.

And then he arrived.

The standing ovation paled in comparison to the standing of our pride. There he was, the President of the United States of America gliding into the football stadium with the same confident stride you've come to expect of the President. I saw grandma's batting their hankies at the corner of their eyes, little kids jumping up and down like Santa Claus arrived or Yo Gabba Gabba took the stage. The graduates??? Mannnn, I'm surprised no one fainted and had to be carried off the field. I could compare it to the hysteria of Michael Jackson fans, but this IS HAMPTON UNIVERSITY so it was way more dignified but the emotion was still the same.

Before I went traveled down to Hampton, I had to essentially ask my mother's permission to miss the holiday dedicated to her for birthing and raising me. After her initial sarcasm ("I don't recall Obama writing a tuition check to Hampton"), she said, "I have a feeling you need to be there and I don't want to stand in your way. This will be good for you." I wasn't so sure about needing to be there as opposed to wanting to be there. My mother is never dramatic (she leaves that to me) but I just nodded and said "Uhhh okay, Ma". But as I listened to President Obama speak, I must admit, she was right. I needed to be there. Not only his speech, but the experience has touched me in such an indelible way. Its hard to describe how I felt. Challenged, inspired, optimistic, renewed all come to mind. Every single step, everything I'd been through up until that moment was worth it because it all let me to this moment.

After the ceremony, I went to meet a friend who was there in a more official capacity, one of the photographers assigned to cover the event. I walked across the football field to find him and giggled because in all the time I've spent at Hampton and all the football games I attended, I'd never ever walked across the football field. As I got closer to the stage and podium where the President has stood just moments before I felt like Armstrong Field was my own personal field of dreams. In that moment, I felt there is nothing that I can't do. As I enter this new chapter of my life, a chapter where uncertainty and doubts will sometimes rear their ugly heads, that moment, that speech, that spot on the field reassured me that I will be just fine.

For those of you that want to see OUR President speak at MY school:


rashad said...

This is very cool, and I'm STILL upset I wasn't there

Redbonegirl97 said...

Cool girl it is an honor to hear him speak, so cherish it. I loved my moment, if only I could encapsulate the hand he shook, lol.

Peace, Love and Chocolate