Una from Milford
My Back-story, NYC Women’s March, Jan 20 ’18
Even though I’m a former New Yorker, I’m really quite uncomfortable in crowds. Especially loud ones. And I shy away from angry, forceful people. Feminist rallies conjure these images for me, so I was apprehensive about going in to the city for this event. But I rose to occasion on my son Jasper’s behalf, because he wanted to witness history with his camera.
My husband Chris had planned to take him on his own, but that just felt wrong. After all, I am the WOMAN in our family, why should I be the one staying home, alone? So at the last minute I decided to join them, even though I was fearful.
Strong women, angry women, thousands of them - oh boy, this was gonna be tough…
The train out of New Haven was standing room only, so I made space for a stranger to sit next to me. She had a beautiful smile and seemed very organized with her backpack and gear. I confessed my lack of preparation, and she offered me a “We Are the Storm” button she had created for the day. When she pinned it on me it felt like a badge of honor, and I felt my tight breathing grow more free.
She asked me if I had a pink cap and I said no, I was hoping to buy one on site. So she reached into her backpack and pulled out an extra one (apologizing because it didn’t have the symbolic pussy ears) and said, “Take this, I packed it for my sister, but at the last minute, she couldn’t come.” I was blushing from her generosity.
“Did you attend this march last year?” I asked. “Yes,” she reassured me, “and it was lovely.”
She said people were thoughtful, helpful and kind, and the energy was one of cooperation. But I was still looking for excuses to be fearful, and expressed my concern about my phone going dead, and not being able to keep in contact with my son. She agreed, “I learned that lesson last year, so this year I’ve brought battery chargers.” In fact, she brought two (one for her sister, who couldn’t come) and she reached once again into her magic bag, and offered me a portable phone charger. I was speechless and offered to pay for it, but she quieted me, replying, “Just pay it forward.”
Chris asked her for tips for getting good photos, and she said the most important thing was to find a way to get some height, and be patient. Jasper’s stomach was rumbling, and she laughed when he admitted he had slept too late to have breakfast. “I’m with you on that one! Here, have this -” And she retrieved a pear and some caramel candies from her bag.
Una from Milford was traveling alone, though she planned to meet a group of friends at Grand Central. I didn’t wanted to press her for personal information, so I never learned her last name. When the train pulled in to the station I gave her a hug, thanking her for her kindness. Then she was off in a flash, the back of her head blending in with the flow of pink caps rushing along the platform ahead. I felt sad, and wished I had asked her if we could keep in touch.
Throughout the day, as Chris, Jasper and I paced ourselves through crowds and searched out a place to gain perspective and height, I held an image of Una’s smile in my mind. And when I felt anxious, I reached into my pocket and held her dear battery charger as if it were the very pulse of life itself.
Who was this person, who had comforted me, anticipated my every need, and given me every tool I had been missing? What were the chances of finding her, seated next to me, on a crowded train?
Una from Milford had packed extra supplies for her sister. Today, in reflection, it occurs to me that I am her sister too. Her sister in womanhood. And Una had soothed my worries with a kind, listening ear, and offered practical, holistic support that enabled me to take advantage of an historic opportunity.
Yes, this was my opportunity to hear the voices of thousands of women, collectively, become one. And they were not too loud. And they were not too much to bear. In fact, they felt hauntingly familiar. They led me back to the ghost of my own voice, which I had given up so many years before.
And I realized the voices I was afraid of were not the voices of loud, angry women, but instead, they were the voices of internalized oppression, the voices of my inner self.
What I heard from my sisters on the day of the march was nothing less than a call to rejoin the living. A voice no longer silenced, and now, a voice no longer feared.