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Packing List for the Women’s March in D.C.

  • Cash/credit card/motel reservation/SmarTrip card for the Metro.
  • Do not pack the fact I really can’t afford this.
  • No ticket required.
  • I use my phone for everything. I booked the motel on my phone after the impulsive decision to go. A November evening, snowy out, the house cozy and half-dark. A week or so had passed since the election and the initial sense of shock and hopelessness had given way to something more like a low-key, consistent sensitivity and depression. Conversation in the kitchen. Three hours later we booked the motel and signed up for the March on the Facebook page.
  • Sense of place. Our route: across the Allegheny Plateau, high into the Allegheny mountains, dipping down and then rising again to cross the Blue Ridge. I-68 goes through the phenomenal Sideling Hill cut, slice of earth removed like a slice of cake.
  • The mission statement: We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. I try to guess how that was written, back and forth across email, poking and shifting words. Or maybe it was one gliding pen or a sweep across the keyboard, one woman getting it right, the others sending their approval. I like to imagine the four founding women gathered in a boardroom with a big, shiny desk, where they shout, whisper, laugh, confront their rage, and decide they must do
  • It was his idea to go in the first place.
  • Every vote for president since 1984. Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton again, Gore, Kerry, Obama, Obama again.
  • Fat chance we’ll see friends we know are also going because of the numbers expected (200,000?) and cell service clogged.
  • Good shoes. Best piece of travel advice ever: think first about your feet and add on from there.
  • Do not take a backpack or a purse. Where do I carry essentials? I don’t have many essentials. Just me and my EpiPen.
  • Sense of history. MLK, Vietnam protesters, women of the seventies. How about aged Robert Frost reading at the inauguration of JFK: . . . we gave ourselves outright / To the land vaguely realizing westward, / But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, / Such as she was, such as she will become.
  • The idea: it is for anyone who believes women’s rights are human rights.
  • Toni Morrison. Virginia Woolf. Pat Summitt, Michelle Obama, Adrienne Rich, Tina Fey, Billie Jean King, Katharine Hepburn. Amelia Earhart.
  • An image of 200,000 people marching in black industrial Doc Martens.
  • More sense of place: the interstate is aligned with the old National Road, and we’ll drive it all the way past its original starting point at Cumberland, Maryland.
  • What I read in the New York Times. One of the organizers said, “We are here and we are watching. And, like, ‘Welcome to the White House.’”
  • Will the Metro be running on time and where do we get off? Will there be speeches? Will we actually be walking the whole time?
  • A dream: I am searching for the March. I’m alone in a landscape that looks like the set of Waiting for Godot, and I can see the Washington Monument in the distance. I stand between two large portraits modeled on the Mao portrait at the Forbidden City. One portrait is a pirate, the other is Cate Blanchett. I wake up laughing.
  • Do not carry the anxiety of missing some school and work, of taking an extra day so we don’t have to rush. What to do on Sunday? My daughter has always wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum.
  • My mother, my sister, my friends MaryGraceKimLisaJennyAmyAndreaRhonda.
  • My mother. She lives in Dubuque in an old house on a river bluff. The winter roads worry her; the upkeep on her old house worries her. This week the wind carried a shutter away. “Where am I going to get a shutter for a house this old?” It’s been a few years since my dad died. If he’d lived, they would be going into their 60th year of marriage. She had the life she wanted, and without him, her new life isn’t great. “I think it’s wonderful you’re going to that march. I don’t know how you just pick up and travel like you do.” Doesn’t she know I gained a sense of direction and tenacity from her? So many of us will march with gratitude to our mothers.
  • Hope.
  • Extreme enthusiasm for food trucks.
  • My very first vote, which was for a woman, Geraldine Ferraro.
  • My father, my brothers, my friends JohnMattJimHarshaAlistairBobBuddyCollin.
  • Anger over the outrageous comment during a debate: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.”
  • Pride.
  • Motivating factor. Fourteen years old and loves school, sleep-overs, Instagram, Buffalo Wild Wings, realistic fiction, tofu, playing flute in the marching band, iTunes, practicing piano, Snapchat, dancing, and The Weekend (the singer, and of course literal weekends too). Early on election night, when I’d sulked about the possible outcome, she persuaded me to take her up to my clothes closet, and we dug around for pantsuit-like attire. A few hours later, we went to bed in confusion, and at 3:00 a.m. I bolted awake, checked my phone to see the results, and tossed and turned until 6:00. As I dressed for work, in a moment I’ll never forget, Iris approached shyly, afraid to look at me (I’d been crying) and then asked, so simply and fearfully, “Mom, what’s going to happen?”
  • Title IX
  • What kind of coat? The forecast said snow, then it said rain, then it said cloudy, and now it says partly cloudy and 58 degrees. 58 degrees! Don’t stomp around in your Doc Martens and parka, pockets filled with EpiPens. Be free! Wear shades and a t-shirt with a logo and run wild.
  • Experience? Not much. That one John Kerry rally in 2004 in Zanesville, Ohio.
  • Hillary.
  • My daughter’s question: Do you think we’ll see Katy Perry?
  • Do not pack the nagging thought of a conversation over the holidays, when a person at a party had eavesdropped, and then approached me to ask why I was going to the March. I said I thought I’d find the answer when I got there. He shook his head and scowled at me. “Ah,” he said. “Passive-aggressive politics.” You women. He didn’t say that out loud but I heard it just the same.
  • Solidarity.
  • Experience for my daughter. She said, “Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I think.” She’s not talking about her peers. She’s talking about the teachers and the conservative views that dominate rural Ohio.
  • A sense of reality. A friend texts, “I hope it’s not overshadowed by the distraction of impending doom.”
  • I trust something deeper, some kind of enduring faith in our experience as human beings and that we are stronger together. The March feels like a challenge—a statement—an action—a moment. A very, very important moment. When asked at the party, I should have given a better answer to the question of why I’m going. I have no doubt that every single person going to this March would say what I want to say to the man who scowled at me: “So my voice can be heard.”