Me? I'll be eating a four-year-old fortune cookie with a glass of champagne.
Just a little more than four years ago, I flew from New York to Florida to train and serve as a Democratic party pollwatcher on Election Day. It seems like yesterday. I remember the sleepless night and the anxiety, the smugness of my Republican counterparts. As I stood in the airport security line to come home, I heard whomever was behind me in line talking animatedly with a companion, laughing...LAUGHING! I recall wondering how anyone could laugh on that day, when it felt to me like someone close or something important had died an unjust death, and I realized, sadly, that we, as a nation, had "chosen" Orwellian rule over reason. Laughter that day seemed to me as strange and unexpected as it might have in New York City on the sunny afternoon of September 11, 2001, or on the many days after it, when even the music didn't play. I experienced each, to quote Don McClean, as "the day the music died..."
When I arrived home, I unpacked my suitcase to discover something I was surprised had survived the flight -- a perfectly intact fortune cookie in it's cellophane wrapper. The cookies had been distributed by the Kerry campaign, each containing a "fortune" related to the campaign and the soon-to-be-lost promises of a Democratic presidency. I still have that fortune cookie. It's push-pinned to the bulletin board here in my office, next to a postcard from Istanbul and a photo I took of the Twin Towers in 1995, back before I grew to love them only through their absence.
Today, for the first time in the four years that I have had this cookie, I noticed that I could actually make out a few words at one end of the enfolded paper. They are "Health insurance...increased by..." To mis-quote a well-known adage, "The less things change, the more they stay the same."
When I visualize an Obama Inaguration, I tear up with anticipatory joy. And then I remember the shock I experienced on November 5, 2004, all the more acute because I'd allowed myself to believe that Kerry would win, that he had to win because it was the only possible "rational" outcome. I'm just four years older, but forty years wiser. I can no longer indulge in such fantasies. Now, when I catch myself imagining an Obama inaugural, I close my eyes and try to imagine a McCain victory, painful as that is. This is not, as you might expect, to ward off complacency, though we must do that as well. Rather, it is a silly attempt to protect myself from the possibility of reliving the bitter shock and disbelief of 2004.
But here's a confession. Today, I allowed myself to believe that Obama might really win this thing and that I will experience an elation too-long-delayed...and then some. I decided that, if "we" win, I will open that fortune cookie, a ritual, of sorts, to mark the end of an eight-year wait for the return of reason, the beginning of an American renaissance. If "we" lose, the cookie will remain where it is on the bulletin board, next to the postcard and the photo.
So...here's hoping for a taste of a very stale fortune cookie on November 5, 2008 to accompany my glass of champagne. Right now, though, I'm going to imagine a McCain victory, make another contribution, and confirm my Sunday training on Pennsylvania Election Law.