"Hope"

Tuesday January 20, 2009. It was a cold morning, and I was bundled up in my warm coat and scarf. I was eating breakfast in Moe’s Diner, watching the news. All they were talking about was the Inauguration that would take place later in the day. The Inauguration for President-elect Barack Obama. It was huge, and everyone was talking about it.

At the time, I didn’t know much about politics. I had only turned 18 the month before, and hadn’t been able to vote in the election. No one in family did, apparently. Daddy was dead-set against it. “This country’s gone to hell,” he said. “Not only is a nigger running for office, but now McCain’s got some Alaskan whore running with him? She ain’t even that pretty.” He said that mean stuff early in the summer, before he kicked me out. Before he knew about the baby.

Since Daddy kicked me out in September, I moved in with Paulie. Paulie didn’t mind. He had a steady job at the garage, and I had gotten a job at the diner, so we knew that, financially at least, we could support our baby. And Paulie’s mom was willing to help us too, if we needed it. She was happy as a clam to be a grandma, although she was a bit unsettled that we were very, very young to be parents.

On that cold January morning, I was pretty far along in my pregnancy, but I wasn’t due for another week or so. Which is why, at around 10:30 that morning, I was very shocked when my water broke in the middle of Moe’s Diner. One of the waitresses called Paulie at the garage and Moe himself drove me to the hospital. Which was very nice of him, considering how mean he could be at work.

Anyway, so we got to the hospital and they set me up in a room with a TV. Paulie got there a little after I did. At that point, my contractions were about twenty minutes apart, so in between them, we watched the Inauguration on the TV in the room.

When Paulie arrived, they were showing all the former Presidents and First Ladies walking out and sitting down. They were showing Jimmy Carter and his wife when the nurse said, “I wonder where Hilary’s sitting? With Bill or the rest of the Obama Cabinet?”

“Hmm,” I said. “Hard pick for her. Probably where the view’s better.”

Then I got hit by another contraction, and I stopped paying attention for a little while. When I paid attention to the TV again, they were showing Obama, standing inside the Capitol building, waiting to walk out and address the country.

“Look at all the people there,” Paulie whispered. “Can you imagine being out there today?”

He was in awe. Unlike my father, Paulie was a huge Obama-supporter. He even had one of those ringtones on his phone. He thought that the Obama family was the new Kennedys. I didn’t know whether or not that was true, I only hoped that things with the Obamas wouldn’t end the same way they did with the Kennedys.

Then it started. There was a prayer, then Aretha Franklin singing “God Bless America,” (and let me tell you, we had a great laugh over her hat). Then another contraction, and then I was able to hear some of the lovely song John Williams wrote for the occasion. I swear to God, that song brought tears to my eyes. It made me remember what one of my customers, a girl from Kenya, had told me once when we were talking about Obama.

“You know his name, Barack, right?” she said. “Well, it comes from the Swahili word ‘baracka,’ which means ‘blessing’.”

I remember thinking, when she said that, how ironic it was, and how much more ironic it would have been if his name has meant hope instead.

And then, the big moment. First, Joe Biden. They had to get him out of the way, and they swore him in quickly. Then, time for Barack Obama. The room was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. Even the baby inside me was quiet, waiting for the new President.

And then- someone messed up. Next to me, Paulie’s mouth hung in shock as Obama stumbled over the Oath of Office. Later, we learned that the person reciting the Oath of Office was reciting it wrong, so no wonder Obama sounded bad. At the time, I just giggled. But it didn’t matter, because seconds later, Bush was out and Obama was in. A new era had dawned over America.

And then he started his speech. The three of us- well, four if count the baby- listened to his speech. And for the first time, I really paid attention to the politics. And I felt emotions swell inside of me. Maybe it was the hormones, but as Obama spoke, I began to feel hope. I began to feel like maybe me and Paulie weren't making a mistake. Maybe my baby would have a bright future, brighter than mine anyway. Which was good. I wanted my baby to have endless possibilities, and endless chances to rise above and beyond success and achieve dreams. And if the new President could help my baby achieve her dreams and give her a future, then I would support him.

Right around the end of Obama’s speech, the contractions started to hit more frequently. I didn’t pay much attention to the Inauguration anymore, I just focused on the birth of what turned out to be a beautiful baby girl. But those feelings I felt during the speech, all that hope, stayed with me.

And sweetheart, that is how you got your name. Hope. Because all those years ago, on a cold January morning, a man on TV gave me so much hope for your future. So Hope, go on out there and make us all proud. Me, your Daddy, and the man who gave you your name.