Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Home again.

We didn't stay up all night. Yesterday morning we woke up at 5, drove the two hours (in hard rain) from Calvi to Bastia, and boarded the car ferry for Savona. Four unsteady hours later, we disembarked and drove two more hours (more hard rain) home. So while I was tempted, sorely tempted, to stay up all night and click around til the moment arrived (our television doesn't run to CNN), we went to sleep.

Each evening of our trip, we toasted the campaign: first the managers and all those folks who have sent me so much email, then Hillary, who wasn't part of the campaign but has been a big part of our lives, and then Michelle, and then, Monday night in Calvi, Obama himself. It was the end of the season in Calvi, and we were eating in about the only restaurant that was still open. There were three couples in the restaurant besides us. We had seen no news--and I mean no news--for five days. I knew we were going to be off the grid, but I had no idea how far off the grid. While we were there Corse Matin, the island's daily paper, featured articles on the weather, on a car accident, and on the man whose job it is to maintain the Serbian cemetery near Bonifaccio, but virtually nothing on the American election. The only paper we saw that featured it was on Saturday morning in Piana (population 430). The Courrier International, a weekly newsmagazine that is a subsidiary of Le Monde, put a close-up photo of Obama on its cover with the question: Oseront-ils l'élire? Will they dare to elect him? We bought it; the cover story was a selection of articles from the American press translated into French. I had already read most of them.

Last night, we ate at home, pasta we had stopped to buy from a traiteur in Vengtimillia and pesto sauce from the freezer. We opened the bottle of Corsican wine G and I had bought the day before from the last remaining open shop in Calvi, from a vineyard named after Calvi's most famous son: Christopher Columbus. We toasted to hope. We were feeling pretty hopeful, and the girls picked up on that and began asking us questions. Does the president ever travel overseas? Does he have his own airplane? Is it his own, or does the government provide it?

They can conjugate French verbs in the passé simple, but they don't know about Air Force One. They don't know that kind of Americana. They were three years old when Clinton was impeached. Five years old when the 43rd president was chosen. They know plenty about the difference between what we value and believe and what those House Republicans valued, and what number 43 believes, but they know--it turns out--almost nothing about the presidency itself. We've never taught them about it. We've never wanted to talk about it. Last night we realized that this could be about to change.

This morning, C and I checked the New York Times while we were still in bed. I came downstairs to find that the girls had already done the same thing. We watched the BBC coverage a bit--they showed the beginning of his speech; we wept--and then made breakfast. The Courrier International was sitting on the kitchen table, still asking its question: Oseront-ils l'élire? G walked by it, and then came back with a pen. Under it, in capital letters, underlined twice, she wrote OUI.

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