With a theme like “family rituals,” I could go any number of directions. I could tell you about our epic Thanksgiving feasts (34 guests this year!) or our annual trips to the Outer Banks or our hilarious Fourth of July jello molds.
But today I’m going to tell you about a different ritual. Today I’m going to talk about the ritual my family repeats every first Tuesday in November: we vote.
I’ll never forget the first time my mom took me to the polls. I was seven years old, and I had off from school and was looking forward to a day of cartoons and games. But at some point in the day, my mom roused me from whatever I was doing and said, “Come on. I have to go vote.”
We pulled up to the Presbyterian church that served as our local polling station, and I followed my mom as she passed a bunch of people outside the front door holding flyers and signs, none of which meant anything to seven-year-old me. I waited in line with her as we approached the voter registration desk, and then, when it was her turn, I followed her behind the mysterious black-curtained machine that reminded me of something out of The Wizard of Oz (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”).
I should note that these black-curtained machines seemed Very Important to seven-year-old me, and not simply because they appeared to be imported from Oz. First of all, only adults were supposed to go inside, which set them apart as Grown-Up Things, and I was always very intrigued by Grown-Up Things. And then there were those curtains! Whatever was going on behind them was obviously a big secret, and I did not like being on the other side of a big secret.
Once my mom and I were both safely in the voting booth, my mom pressed a bunch of buttons and then pulled a big metal lever, all of which seemed very official and complicated. And then, just like that, we were pulling open the curtain and walking out of the church.
Obviously my understanding of voting has progressed significantly since the days of mysterious curtains and big metal levers (do they even have those machines anymore?). But even from that young age, I knew voting was important. I knew it was something that you should do, as soon as you’re old enough to do it.
And I was right. Because here’s the thing (and I know you’ve probably heard this a zillion times before, but I’m saying it anyway): thousands upon thousands of our forefathers died so that we could exercise our right to vote. Thousands upon thousands of people living in tyranny around the world wish they could do what so many of us take for granted the first Tuesday in November. The people of North Korea, the people of Zimbabwe — do you think they’d give up a chance to vote in a free and fair election? Do you think they’d forget to make it to the polls?
So, whomever you support — whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Gary Johnson or Jill Stein — get to the polls and cast your vote. And if you’re tempted to sit this one out, visit this site to have your excuse blown to shreds. Then pull yourself together and head to your local polling station. That’s where I’ll be today. And so will the rest of my family.
So tell me: Did YOU vote today? What is your first voting memory?