She’s a girl

My three-year-old daughter woke just before midnight on November 8 and plodded down the hall, her hair rising in unnatural peaks, her flamingo nightgown hiked up, her blue eyes squinting against the television’s flickering glare.

“Mommy, I need you.”

The awful thing hadn’t happened yet — Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin were still too close to call — but the feeling was already there, that ache of the unknown.

I rose from the couch and took her hand, led her back to her bed and climbed in with her. I curled into a ball. I felt her arm fling over my rib cage and her head burrow into my back. The ache got worse.

Though I was tucked into a bed in a locked house on a quiet street in a suburb north of Pittsburgh, I felt unsafe. I was raising my daughter the way I had been raised — in a home full of choices and opinions. Now I feared the world wouldn’t allow her to have either.

It had been a good day. At her preschool parent/teacher conference, Miss Erin told us how Jolene had befriended the boy in her class who doesn’t speak, how she’d inexplicably and repeatedly refused to feed the class fish. My heart swelled. She was a girl of compassion and independence.

While my husband and I talked to her teacher, Jolene went with my parents to vote. Later, we picked her up and took her to do the same. As we cut across the packed church parking lot to get in line, Jolene sang, “We will vote for Hil-i-lary Clinton. She’s a girl. And we’re girls.”

When it was finally our time, I led her to the machine and she stood on her toes, chin lifted, to watch me tap the screen and declare our choice, so full of hope we could have floated into the blue sky on the way out.

That night in her bed, that hope evaporated, I wondered how I would explain it all. She’s too young to understand the truth: That her country failed her, that millions of Americans just declared they hate me and hate her.

So the next morning, I said only, “Hillary Clinton didn’t win, and it’s really sad, but we’re going to be OK.”

That weekend, we watched together as Kate McKinnon’s Clinton sat at a piano in a white pantsuit and sang “Hallelujah.”

I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though

It all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

When it was over, Jolene looked at me and smiled: “We will vote for Hil-i-lary Clinton.”

I voted for Clinton three times in eight years — twice in the primaries, once in the general election. Twice, our country told her no, and not just no, but “hell, no” and “who do you think you are?”

Her name may never appear on a ballot again, but my daughter is right, I’m not going to stop voting for Hillary Clinton. I’m not going to stop voting for the girl who was born a boy and wonders which bathroom she’ll be forced or allowed to use. I’m not going to stop voting for the teen who loudly says “no” when someone tries to grope or harass her. I’m not going to stop voting for the woman who learns her fetus isn’t viable in a state that won’t let her choose how and when to say goodbye.

And I’m not going to stop voting for the little girl who calls a silent child her best friend, who wears tutus and plays in dirt, who refuses to feed fish just because she can, who loves being a girl.

May it always be true.