Do you know what those cars are? The Presidential motorcade, Baby. Making its way from Quincy, Illinois, to Macon, Missouri, under a little overpass in a little town called Clarence. (Like the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life.)
Here’s the story. President Obama was in the area, giving speeches, holding town hall meetings, and popping in at little diners where he would order sandwiches or rhubarb pie. And on one of the days he would be traveling by motorcade from a town 90 minutes away from me to a town only 30 minutes from me. And to not even try to participate in this historic event seemed nothing short of failing to live up to everything I said I would do back when I didn’t die of cancer and decided from then on to live.
Thing is, no one knew if I would actually be able to see him. The event 30 minutes from me was private. The highway would be closed, the overpasses blocked. You could try, they said. But without much hope.
“Michael,” I told him on one of my many phone calls that began with Do you know anything yet? “I think being turned around by a uniformed officer is the only thing that will convince me this isn’t possible. So I’m going to Clarence.” Little did Michael know I didn’t exactly know how to get to Clarence.
So I took off. I put Jake in the car along with a plate of gooey buttery cookies my coworker had given me – sustenance for the journey. I had perfectly good directions but was detoured due to bridge work. So I took a dirt road. I just took it. It was heading in the direction of Clarence as opposed to the direction of home, and I took it. I made turns now and then, following my gut that I still needed to be farther south and east. I drove despite the fact that I worried I was going too fast, that the gravel could put a hole in my tires, and that the whole thing could end with Jake and I stranded in a ditch on the side of a dirt road, unconscious from the gooey cookie comas, the car out of gas, holes in the tires, and the presidential motorcade speeding by on a highway I was nowhere near.
And then I prayed. I said, Dear God – it’s me, Melodrama. You know how much I want to believe that if we just try, good things can happen. That if we’re willing to take a risk and not settle for the status quo, then we won’t have to. I know it’s just a caravan of dark SUVs really. I know he’s a democrat. And I know there’s no reason for you to care if Jake and I experience this or not. But if you could just not let this end with the ditch scenario and the part where I take off on a drive that results in absolutely nothing, I think I’d re-believe that anything can happen. I really do.
And boo-yah. We pull up to the overpass at Clarence just in time to wave at the other people who cared enough to arrive, to tell them where we were from and that, no, I really had no idea how to get home, to see the helicopter fly over and a few lone cop cars, to walk behind the nice guy’s big-wheel truck so Jake could pee, and then (before he actually could pee) to hear the words, “You better hurry, though, he’s coming!” And then to see it go by all while gripping Jake on my waist and hoping to God he could hold it because I was wearing my favorite long sweater.
We made it. I was so happy I could have cried. And I totally believed again.