Today is Election Day in Maryland and this is a post about voting. But first, I need to tell you about pet turtles and dead caterpillars.
For the last few weeks, my daughters have been lobbying hard for a pet turtle. As our almost 5-year-old recently reminded us, our dog is old and “soon he’s going to die.” And our almost 8-year-old is dissatisfied with the pet-to-person distribution in our family: in other words, there is no pet belonging exclusively to her; she didn’t pick out or name the only one we have; and therefore it’s so unfair.
The new pet campaign came to a head this morning. I’m taking little Wednesday Addams and Dorothy Day on a Girl Scout field trip to our local pet shelter and my husband made it clear that we will not, under any circumstances, be coming home from this excursion with a new pet.
But being the innovative and perseverant children they are, my girls decided that since we already have a flourishing ant population in our house, they would adopt a few wild ants in need of a good home. So, just before lunchtime, they set out in the backyard with bowls, watermelon chunks, and a few spent dandelions.
They caught three ants and named them Tickles, Shine, and Steve. They had a few good moments together before one of the ants – I think it was Steve – initiated a mass breakout and they escaped into the grassy wilds.
I redirected the girls to our front patio and tempted them with a bucket of sidewalk chalk, but they were not to be distracted from their quest for a new pet. After a few minutes I heard an excited cry – my older daughter had found a caterpillar.
It might look from here like this story has a happy ending. It doesn’t. Mr. Caterpillar had shuffled off his mortal coil, and was no more.
“Honey,” I told her, “I think he’s dead.”
“That’s OK” she said, “He can still be my pet.”
So I flicked the poor creature into my daughter’s bowl habitat and then I walked away because some things you can’t change.
Also, I had to deal with the 4-year-old who was sobbing over the fact that her sister now had her own pet, but she didn’t. The fact that it was a DEAD freaking CATERPILLAR carried no weight with her. Meanwhile, her big sister began singing lullabies to the dead caterpillar, because that’s what you do, I guess?
It wasn’t long, though, before the little sister’s heartbreak was alleviated by a burst of schadenfreude. My older daughter had dropped her caterpillar and it fell through the cracks in our deck.
But the fact reminded that, after all their trouble, neither one of them had their own pet. The crying resumed, this time in stereo.
All of this happened at that exact point in the day when hunger and low-caffeine levels make me extra short on patience. On a normal no-school day, I’d be silently cursing the school calendar deities for ruining my life while searching online for boarding schools.
But not today. Today, I’m feeling deeply grateful for the good fortune that allowed me to be born in a democratic country, at a time when women can vote, in a state where voting is easy.
My dad always says that you can’t complain if you don’t vote. But it seems to me like our country is really good at the complaining part and not so good at the voting part. And that needs to stop.
People died for our right to vote. There are plenty of places around the world where people are still fighting and dying for a right we take for granted –a right that some of us scorn. And, even now, in America, there are states and districts that are making voting excessively difficult, if not impossible.
I understand people’s frustration with our political system. I feel it too. But not voting because you can’t be bothered or just don’t care is an insult to those who have sacrificed their passion and even their lives for our right to do so. It’s also an insult to anyone who is denied the right to vote.
So get out there and vote. I did it, with two kids who still don’t have their own pets and are still crying about it. Polls are open until 8.