Molly Fisk: Preparing to Be Uncomfortable

My dad used to tell us a story about his grandmother and voting. I was a little girl then, and don’t remember what years the story took place, because it happened more than once. But since women got the vote in 1920, it must have been after that. This side of the family was rich, lawyers and descendants of lawyers. My dad’s grandmother spent most of the year in Buffalo but summered down in Southern Vermont on the old family farm.

A few days before voting day, which must have been in the summer then, she got into the back seat of her car, her chauffeur got in behind the wheel, and they drove to Buffalo to cast their ballots. I just looked this up on Google maps. It’s 350 miles if you take Interstate 90, but the interstates weren’t built until the mid-1950s. They probably had to take a more circuitous route through every town and city along the way and I doubt all those roads were even paved. Not to mention no one drove 65 miles an hour. My father kind of glossed this part over, but I’m thinking it was at least a two-day trip.

It’s worth asking myself, what am I willing to do to hold onto my own safety and dignity and make sure everyone else is granted safety and dignity too?

In Buffalo, my great-grandmother voted the straight Republican ticket, the chauffeur voted straight Democratic, and then they turned around and drove back to Manchester, VT. My father would laugh and laugh, pointing out to us the irony of their votes cancelling each other out, and we’d laugh with him, thinking how nutty people were in the olden days. But despite his guffaws, he used the story as a teaching tool, to remind us that voting is so important you do it anyway.

Over the four generations since, my family has migrated to being mostly staunch Democrats. None of us has become a chauffeur that I know of, or even an Uber driver, but we don’t employ them any more, either. The old farm in Manchester was sold to the CEO of Orvis a long time ago, and none of the Fisk descendants live in Buffalo.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to how this story relates to anyone’s life today.

For me, I think it’s worth asking myself, what am I willing to do to hold onto my own safety and dignity and make sure everyone else is granted safety and dignity too? It’s clearly going to be more than voting, which I did already last November, driving myself to my polling place less than a mile away.

That round-trip ride in the early 1930s or whenever it was makes a good story, but it also took some conviction. What do I care enough about to make myself physically uncomfortable? Really, really uncomfortable?! What’s the 21st century version of an old lady with swollen ankles bouncing around in the back of a Pierce Arrow for four days uncomfortable?



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  • Shirley April 2, 2017 at 9:37 am

    From the 70’s on, I have worked for political candidates. Most have lost, since I am a liberal Democrat living in the South. Still I persist. The last Presidential election has been the most challenging and upsetting to me. More women better get in gear and run, or we’re sunk.

  • carol ann hoorn April 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I think I was born a rebel with a cause, though I was always quite shy, polite and even backward about it. No role models, except perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt( I was born in 1934) Unfortunate childhood(great material for stories), assuming the peace-maker role( only one available in family) Many misguided and unfruitful outcomes, but by High School days was volunteering for Civil Rights in the 1950’s in Palo Alto, Ca. with chosen group of Quakers. Voted most radical graduate by peers, but given highest Citizenship award by teachers. I still, at 83, stand on Petaluma,Santa Rosa, Ca. street corners on any given Saturday. My sign, decorated with Rainbow and U.S.Flags says-“Love Your Neighbors.” My body is officially disabled , but my heart and mind fights on. Your writing, Molly, which reminds me of Ms. Ivins, is a strong, tinged with humor voice, which rings with truth and the demand for equal justice for all. Kudos.

  • Karen Donaldson April 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Great story! Love this.
    I once drove 400 miles roundtrip to vote when I was out of town and there was a snafu with my vote by mail ballot. People told me I was nuts, but I didn’t want to look back and know I hadn’t taken every step to vote in a pivotal election. No regrets.

  • hillsmom April 1, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Molly you do have the gift. What a neat story (do people say neat anymore?) So I did my job and didn’t remind my DH, who seems to be living in the 50s, to vote on election day. I reminded him after 20:00…Ha! I, myself, voted absentee. Alas to no avail…but there’s something rotten in D.C. which I fear will be swept under the rug. We all can call and try to voice change at least. The “Citizens United” decision has to be one of the worst ever.