Friday, September 6, 2019

"Except Joanna"

In October 2004, I went with some friends to a John Kerry rally. 

I wouldn't say I was a HUGE Kerry supporter, but I'd never been to any event like that and I wanted to go.  Plus, my boss had given me a pile of tickets to use.  Not to mention, I'd heard that actor Ron Livingston was going to be there. (And since I can't count the number of times I've seen "Office Space" - that seemed enough of a reason to attend. Ha!)

I don't have many concrete memories of that evening.  I remember it took a bit to get through security, but once we got inside the arena... the excitement was contagious.  Ron Livingston WAS there, and I know he talked about how important it was for us to vote in the upcoming election.  Kerry said all the usual things you'd expect a Presidential candidate to say, but really hammered home that each person here tonight could use their vote and make a difference.

As we were driving the 30 miles back to campus, my friend Joanna looked a bit sad.  She eventually shared that watching the rest of us get excited and inspired by the speakers was hard for her. She felt like every time someone said that EVERYONE could make a difference, there was an unspoken "Except Joanna" playing inside her head.

In October 2004, Joanna was not an American citizen.  Joanna could not vote. 

Being the super unhelpful friends we were - we lightened the mood by giving her crap, and we turned "Except Joanna" into a inside joke for a few weeks.  Joanna and I lost touch when I graduated the following year.  And to be honest, I'd forgotten about that night until a couple of weeks ago when "Except Joanna" turned into "Except MY son."


I was at a meeting with the other parents in my son's preschool class.  His teacher was going over what a typical day would look like in her classroom.  As she rattled off her list of activities, all I could think was... MY son can't do those things. 

My son can't start each day practicing writing his name. I can barely get him to hold a crayon without throwing it across the room.

My son can't sit nicely on the carpet for story time and then talk about his favorite part of the story with the group.  When he does consent to looking at books, I have to keep taking them out of his mouth. 

My son can't bring toys from home and share why they are special with his classmates.  He simply doesn't have the words.

"Except my son."  "Except my son."  "Except Joanna."

I'm sorry that I didn't have the right words back in 2004, Joanna.  I googled you once and learned that you became a citizen in early 2009.  I wonder if you've been to any other political rallies. I hope that you haven't had many life experiences that made you feel as excluded as you did that night almost 15 years ago.

I also hope that with each passing year, there will be less activities on the daily school schedule that cause me to worry about my son feeling the same way.