01/16/2009 09:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What I'm Wearing for the Inauguration

What I'm Wearing for the Inauguration
(Or from Barbie to Mister Obama)

Like some four million others, we're going to the Inauguration January 20th. We're staying with friends who live sort of near the Mall and, studying a map of Washington D.C., I think we'll be able to walk to meals, to memorials and museums. More importantly, we'll be able to trudge on foot early on the morning of the swearing-in to see Barack Obama, however distant, stand before the nation as our President.

In the category of the trivial, I'm taking carry-on luggage for our four-day stay, so other than a warm coat and boots, I'll be wearing scarves for skirts and spandex bands for hats, halters and hankies. Luckily I have practice in fashioning versatile wardrobes from tiny bits of cloth, a product of years of playing Day-to-Night Barbie with our younger daughter. (Our older, Berkeley-born in the 70's was not allowed the crass-materialist doll but eleven years later when her sister was born, we were older, mellower and considerably more tired.)

Our younger daughter, now 25, will be going, too, taking the train from New York, although I don't know if she's employing Day-to-Night packing for her own luggage. I'm not really certain why I'm doing it. I just know it wouldn't fit the spirit of the occasion to show up at the Regular-Peoples Ball in clothes that look like a clue to the whereabouts of the missing money from the bank bailout.

So I'm trying to Keep It Simple, Honor the Hour, Be the Message. All that.

Family members gifted us at Christmas with red, white and blue items of apparel to wear to Washington, that we might look appropriately patriotic. I'm bringing my wedding ring, some earrings Gary gave me for our anniversary and a small shamrock pin from Ireland that my mother got on her last trip there a few days before she died. I feel a bit as if all my loved ones are going with us.

There are people taking their actual whole families to the Inauguration. Friends of ours from Compton, California are using some of their retirement savings, joining up with kin from Mississippi, all of whom are bunking in Virginia with other relatives to witness the day. A friend from Chicago says in the Southside some entire blocks of neighborhoods are getting on buses at the wee hours of the morn with kids and packed food, traveling to D.C., disembarking to view the 44th President Take the Oath, re-boarding their buses to go back home.

It reminds me of a time long, long ago when we were young Berkeley, anti-war, feminist liberals traveling from New York City in a 1956 orange Volkswagen bus with batik curtains to our nation's capitol for the November Demonstration. By our tie-dye shirts, patched jeans and lengthy tresses, not to mention the orange VW van, we signaled to everyone on the highway who we were and where we were going. Other travelers marked our journey, honking, smiling, waving signs of peace, until it seemed that everyone in the known universe was together on the way to Washington.

Despite the war, despite the corrupt, soulless occupant of the 1969 Oval Office, despite the presence of armed troops and sharpshooters on rooftops and courtyards throughout the city, it was a hopeful, joyous time. We were half a million protesters gathered together in peace and we knew our bodies were more powerful than guns. We knew our music could overcome the silence of oppression. We knew our hopes and dreams would fill the air like prayer and guide us into a better world.

That was then. Now we have two wars, brutal clashes in Gaza, rockets in Israel, crises in healthcare, education, shelter, pensions and life savings. We are left, like Pandora, with only hope. And so, afar and anear, alone and in a multitude, we will celebrate the figure of a sole, slim African-American man as he lays his hand on the bible. And we will weep with joy.