Deciding to vote early, my husband and I head out on a sunny, quiet Saturday afternoon with our little one. We’re happy the polling place is uncrowded when we arrive and our baby loves any reason to be in the carrier, observing the world while snuggling his mom.
We’re directed to our respective voting booths, the curtain is closed, and the dance begins. With all my preparation, I neglected to consider the height of the voting machine and the obstruction my son’s head would be to checking off my preferred boxes. I alternate making quarter turns to the left and right as I page through the selections and my son watches the sunlight filtering through the curtain. Can I touch it? he wonders. Yes.
My ears recognize a forming line, triggering self-consciousness. I’m certain of impatient eyes on my moving feet and my son’s waving of the curtain.
I cast my votes, aware of having taken at least double the usual time, and prepare a sheepish exit. I turn, and two things are true. There is a crowd waiting in line and each person is staring at me and my son. They are all staring and they are all smiling.
In what could prove the most divisive election of my lifetime, everyone here has agreed on one thing — a curious baby who plays with a voting booth curtain is adorable. Only embarrassed of my former misjudgment, I grin back. I never saw a set of unanimous happy faces at a polling place before. That’s the image I’ll hold onto from this election.