Someone asked poet Nikki Giovanni what she was most proud of as she looked back over her life. She replied:
“I’m proud that I’m still sane. I think that sanity is important. I’m proud that I have enough sense to love the people who love me and I dislike the people who dislike me. So I think that that keeps me sane. I have not many friends, but the few I have are good. I’m proud of that.”
Do not discount sanity. It has become an endangered natural resource in this country. There were many days over the past four years when many thought I had lost mine, and truth be told, there were some close calls.
But it is my birthday and I am celebrating because the election is over and Joe Biden is President-Elect and Kamala Harris, a woman, a black woman, is our first ever woman Vice-President-Elect!! I cannot wait until Mike Pence has to address Kamala Harris as Madam Vice-President, and Donald Trump has to refer to President Biden.
There’s a pandemic going on so I’m not going to go out for dinner. I won’t be getting a massage or a pedicure. I won’t be meeting friends for a glass of wine.
But Sister Tater took care of that part. She shipped me two bottles of cranberry wine from Westport Winery. And while I may be alone on my birthday, I intend to raise a glass in gratitude for yet another year to look forward to and saying goodbye to the chaos of 2020.
They will write about us in the history books, you know. They will call us the “pandemic people.” They will say we could have done more to protect each other, but propaganda from a president and failed public policy put us all at risk. They will cite the number of us who died due to failures of this president and his administration. They will shake their heads and think how stupid millions were in their blind allegiance to a dangerous demagogue. And our grandchildren will tell the tales of how they went to school virtually and wore masks even around their grandparents.
I am going to raise that glass and give a celebratory toast because I am here and that is not nothing. Not in a year when so many are no longer among us. So many who would be here still had this administration spent as much time trying to address the pandemic instead of chasing down fake theories of non-existent voter fraud. I will toast saying goodbye to an administration that saw fit to arm law enforcement with military-grade armor, guns and Humvees, but couldn’t get N-95 masks to doctors and nurses, or toilet paper to the public.
I am going to give thanks for the Sister-in-Law who sent me a beautifully crafted Ruth Bader Ginsburg doll because she said the doll reminded her of me. She bought the doll two weeks before #RBG died, unaware that she was dying. My middle name is Ruth and the doll makes me deliriously happy.
I’m going to give thanks because while looking at a photo of me holding my then infant daughter Shelby, grandson Nico said that I looked “very young” and “a little bit like Alice Paul” in the photo. “Who is Alice Paul?” Shelby asked. So 8-year old Nico schooled Shelby on the women’s rights activist and suffragette. Having my 8-year old grandson teach my daughter makes me smile. That he compared me to Alice Paul makes me deliriously happy.
It is not nothing that when others think of me they are reminded of the character traits of #RBG and Alice Paul. It’s not nothing to be regarded as a woman of strong character and convictions. At least nobody is comparing me to the forgettable Flotus who hates Christmas decorating, or the Kooky Kayleigh who totes big binders full of blank papers and water for the president.
We should be deliriously happy when our birthdays roll around. We made it another year! Yay us! We survived something difficult and we are still standing, mostly. That’s not nothing. It’s worth celebrating.
And I am going to raise that glass in gratitude to every single black woman – granny and girlfriend – who marched themselves to the polls to redeem Biden’s bid for the presidency, and then rallied Black, White, Latino, and Indigenous women across the nation to support Kamala Harris’s bid for vice-president.
I am going to toast every single one of those women who lifted their voices and demanded to be heard.
The world is listening to you now.
That is not nothing. You are worth celebrating.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of MOTHER OF RAIN (Mercer Univ. Press).