Monday, November 10, 2008

Château Obama

Here's the thing: if you put down your glass of champagne next to the sofa, and then you go check on the supply of food on the table and when you come back in the living room your glass is gone, if you accept the new, full glass of champagne that your husband hands you--if you do that a couple of times over the course of an evening, you'll wake up with a headache that even a dose of Tylenol and two cups of tea won't completely fix. But if you have that headache while you're reading about the various Rhodes Scholars that are helping President-Elect Obama begin to put our house in order, here's the other thing: it won't bother you much.

We had our election party Saturday night. Wednesday C and I put our list together--30 or so people from the office, from hiking, from coffee, from quilting, from school, from our daily walk to the village--and sent out an invitation: join us to toast our new president.

Yesterday we put the party together. I went to the hypermarché for champagne and salmon and olives and endive and eggs, lots of eggs. The chef of the wine section, when I explained to him why I needed a dozen bottles of champagne, congratulated me on our elections in French and then, just to make sure I got it (I had, after all, muffed the subjunctive in one sentence), again in English. In the afternoon we made deviled eggs and salmon spread and hummus and pissaladière. We chilled the champagne. We pushed the dining room table against the wall and covered it with a quilt my grandmother made decades ago. We put election music on the Ipod: A Change is Gonna Come, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and The Rising, and (because I have fond memories of 1992), Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow), and other songs that made us glad to be American. We put out all the Obama goods that A brought us last month: the bumper stickers on the doors, the rally poster on the mantle, the Obama action figure on the table, the yard sign (she flew across the ocean with an Obama / Biden yard sign in her luggage; she's a good friend) out by the gate.

And everyone came. English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, French, even a few Americans came. Some of them had already had engagements for the evening and rearranged them so that they could be here. They found the Obama stickers that I had left out on the table, and passed them around to each other while I was wondering which was my champagne glass; I came into the kitchen and everyone was sporting an Obama sticker. When it was time for me to Say a Few Words (I'm the person in our family who does that; C stands beside me and makes me think I can), I told a story about a cross burning in my family, and about how my grandmother, whose not very distant ancestors were slaveowners, had voted for a black man for president. Then we all raised our glasses to Hope and to Change. I was told later that a couple of grown men almost cried.

That's all right, though, we've all been crying, all week. Good tears, relieved and proud and happy tears. Last night there may have been a few misty eyes, but mostly there was a lot of laughing and telling stories and comparing notes. As I moved through the house, I kept hearing the same conversation: Where were you when you found out? What were you doing when you heard?

M and her husband, English friends who have followed this election almost as passionately as we have, arrived bearing a bottle of champagne. They had found a photo of Obama waving and smiling to the camera against the backdrop of an enormous American flag. Across the top of the photo they had typed Château Obama, and then they'd printed it out and taped it over the label on the bottle. We drank, the 30 of us, a dozen bottles of champagne last night, but not that one. We're going to keep that particular vintage around for a while.

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