Hello from North Haven!
I wasn’t planning to go to the Augusta Women’s March, but when my island bff not only invited my daughter Penrose and I to come with her but offered to drive, I couldn’t turn it down. My husband planned to go to the march on Vinalhaven, so at 7:30 Saturday morning, we three women got in my Rav 4 with the carseat in the back and embarked on a flat calm ferry ride.
After bathroom and ATM stops, we headed up to the capitol. We listened to Prince, per my daughter’s request, and laid out an action plan. Find parking. Put the kid in the stroller. Find a bathroom. Find a place to stand. Not get separated. Leave when we get too cold or the toddler alarm goes off. Since we came in on Route 17, we didn’t see any traffic, and were surprised and amazed to see the river of people, many wearing orange, coming from all directions once we got into town.
We found parking at the Maine Arts Commission and loaded Pen in the stroller. My friend and I put on our pink hats – you know the ones – which she had knitted the day before. There was one for my daughter too, but she declined to wear it. We started walking the few blocks between us and what turned out to be 10,000 people gathered on the capitol lawn. Everyone we encountered smiled at us. People helpfully gave directions, or scooted over on the sidewalk to make room for the giant stroller.
We found the bathrooms in the Museum Library Archives building, and ran into a few friends from Vinalhaven. The bathroom line moved quickly, and everyone was still smiling. Men exiting their less occupied bathroom let women know when it was empty and could be used. Penrose waved a stick she had appropriated as a wand and jumped up and down in her Bog boots, purple tutu fluttering.
Back outside, we got pink stickers from Planned Parenthood, and then climbed a hill, hoping to find a way to see and hear the speakers and musicians. A Charlie Brown’s teacher-esque muddle of sound reached us, punctuated by cheers and claps and boos in turn. Planned Parenthood volunteers came by with cupcakes. I took one and offered it to my daughter. She turned away. Crowds are not her favorite thing. I ate the cupcake, offering some to her after each bite. She refused.
My friend and I stood, basking in the incredible atmosphere, feeling safe and supported and included. My daughter twisted around in her stroller to glare up at me.
“I’m hungry,” she said.
“Oh.” The snacks, which my husband had organized in the morning, were several blocks away in the car.
“I want a cupcake.” The Planned Parenthood volunteer with the lovely pink box was nowhere in sight.
“Well. The snacks are back in the car.”
She turned back around, clearly furious, and rightfully so. We stood for a few more minutes, taking it all in. The people, the signs, the other kids, playing happily or holding their own signs, because their more experienced protester parents had remembered the snacks. When she turned around again, she began to cry, a little hunger having morphed into a full-on hangry rage. My friend and I looked at each other.
“Time to go?” I asked.
“Time to go.” We navigated the stroller down the hill and through the crowd, realizing too late that we couldn’t get back to the car from where we had ended up, and back tracking. We found an open spot on the sidewalk from which we could hear the beginning of a musical performance, with women’s voices twining together in the spring-like air. We paused.
“I’m HUNGRY,” the protesting protester reminded us. We carried on. As we got out of the crowd, Penrose asked to walk. I took her out of the stroller and held her for a minute.
“See this?” I asked. “This is important. This is thousands of people in Maine coming together to say that they disagree with the President. This is amazing. I’ve never seen this before.” She looked around at the flags, the signs avowing solidarity with every imaginable group and creed.
“People have always protested, but right now thousands and thousands of people think it’s extra important to tell the president that everybody matters.”
She was quiet for a minute.
We held hands and slowly walked back to the car. Her mood brightened as she shuffled through the crusty snow at the edges of the sidewalk – sidewalks are a novelty to her, since we don’t have them on North Haven. As we turned down Child Street to the parking lot, an older woman fell into step beside us.
“Baby’s first protest?” she asked. I nodded.
“I hope you took a lot of pictures!”
We had taken none. No pictures and no snacks – I was losing parenting points by the second. We got Pen in the car and handed her crackers and an apple.
I may have goofed on some of the details, but to have stood in that crowd on that day, with my friend and my daughter and 10,000 other people, united in kindness and concern, was worth it. Next time – and I’m sure there will be a next time – we won’t forget the snacks.