I sent my absentee ballot in today. Several months ago, in Wellington, I had registered as a Tampa resident, and got my documents emailed to me several weeks ago, back when I was still going to band practice and to my job. I’d been planning to exercise one of my democratic rights via the medium of expensive international postage, and I was looking forward to updating my Facebook status to indicate that, even though I wouldn’t be getting a sticker to wear proudly on my shirt all day, I’d voted in a super-important (but aren’t they all?) American general election.
Instead I just printed out the ballot, absentee in my official city of residence, and popped it in a regular old envelope and gave it to my sister to mail on her way to pick up the baby at daycare, after we went to the lawyer but before I did Mom’s evening meds and made her dinner and mine. I did update my status but I still didn’t get a sticker.
Four years ago I was living at home with my mom. I’d just come back from my first year in New Zealand and was hip-deep in immigration worries, sending emergency overnight registered mail to various consulates and not thinking too much about the fact that I didn’t really have a plan B. I was working, a little, at my old kindergarden and doing a lot of cooking and cleaning and getting dumped on Skype and volunteering for the Obama campaign. I wore my pounamu on Election Day, and really did, that day, feel like I was part of something big and important.
What strikes me now, reading over those old posts, is how optimistic I seem to have been: no job, no New Zealand residency, soon-to-be-no-boyfriend, no idea what was going to happen next: where I would go and what I would do. I think I just sort of thought everything would work out, and amazingly, everything just sort of did.
Of course I think about all the time I spent with Mom then—at home, where she would bike for a lunch I would make her; at school, where I got to watch her in her profession for the first time in thirty years; on the beach, where we would go together at night sometimes even though it was before her knee surgery and she couldn’t go very far or very fast. I think about fostering the little ginger-and-white kitten together, who is now a very large cat and currently sleeping on her favorite chair. I think about when she took care of me when I got lavishly sick right after I got residency. I think about sitting in the living room together under the ceiling fans, reading separate books, and how I would sometimes get very teenagerish and run upstairs to my room and throw myself on the bed because I was frustrated and bored and didn’t know what was going to happen in my life, and how she would very calmly knock on my door and say goodnight as if nothing had happened, leaving me to bury my head under the pillow and croak goodnight back.
I guess I took that time for granted, even though even then I thought that it was unlikely we would have another sustained time together like that. I just thought it would be because I would be in one hemisphere and she would be in the other. The last conversation we had, before she texted me in mid-February while I was in a work meeting to tell me I needed to call her immediately, was about how she was going to come and visit me in October, for a month at least, now that she was retiring. I imagine one or both of us would have said, during that conversation, ‘I can’t wait until we can have some more time together!”
It is October now and we have some more time together, just like we planned, just like we had four years ago. The country will go whichever way it goes on election day, and I will go in my own: today, tomorrow, and in four more years. With my mom for a while, and then without her.