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?