The room was dark with wood paneling, sloped attic ceilings, no air condition and always seemed a hundred degrees. Yet, it didn’t seem to bother me when I would stay locked away in there for hours at a time. Surrounded by pictures from the forties and fifties. The black and whites of my Great Uncle in his Air Force uniform, pictures of my Aunt as a young and pretty new bride. It was in the realm of that safe space of my Uncle’s attic where I was able to dream dreams that were a bit different than those of my friends. Sure, I played babies, Barbies, house. Only when we played with my “check books,” which were discarded checks from an old account of our local Church of Christ, I didn’t seem to instinctively sign my name with some boy’s last name at school that I had a crush on, pretending that I was a housewife, like most of my friends. I liked my own name. Why wouldn’t I?
I wasn’t really relating to their “grown up” plans.
No, I usually dreamed that I owned that dang bank . Not that I had some man’s last name who would cover the expense of the check for me. Instead of shopping at ‘Candice’s Mall’ — I owned it.
And when I spent many a lone summer day up there, in some regards an only child even though I wasn’t, when I signed my name, I used to always sign it one single, repetitious way: Candice Mathis, President.
Sometimes it simply meant president of the bank. Sometimes it was of the aforementioned mall. But sometimes, in my wildest of dreams of the unspoken desire down in my hearing bedtime stories of FDR heart, it was of the United States.
And in the nineties when I became a teen and watched Cokie Roberts with my Great Uncle on Sunday mornings before Sunday School, when we celebrated the election of Bill Clinton just like everybody in the South who felt like Bubba really stood for us, it was Hillary Clinton who caught my eye. She didn’t “bake cookies.” She didn’t take a man’s last name just because they — society — told her that she should. She seemed at times to have as good a grip, if not better, on the many pressing — domestic and foreign — situations at hand as her husband, the President. She seemed confident, strong, intimidating — in a good way. She didn’t hide her intellect. She made pant suits cool. But mostly, as a young girl dreaming of going to law school and running for the Senate, Hillary Clinton gave me something that I don’t think was ever tangible to my young southern female mind: my own political hero. A bulldog that I saw fight, and fight, and fight. And as I enrolled in college as a political science major right around the impeachment trial time, the level of Hillary Clinton’s strength and confidence deepened to a level that is almost unmatched even to this day. I hold her and Elizabeth Edwards in the highest of regards. They are dignity under duress; grace under fire.
And now, in a time where the Kardashians and reality stars are who our young girls, younger girls, are looking up to, my generation — the Generation Xers — lived a different experience. Our highest role model in public life was First Lady, turned Senator, turned Secretary of State, turned Democratic Presumptive nominee for President of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I’ve often said the first person I ever remember wanting to be was Judy Blume. The next was Reba McEntire. Then around the time I turned 12-years-old, it migrated magically to Hillary Clinton. And to this day, that has never changed.
Not once. I’m still in awe, and
she’s still my inner little girl’s “when I grow up” queen.
I’ve seen men whine, moan, compose bitter, nonsensical diatribes that usually have something to do with a vagina — whether it’s Trump supporters or the Bernie Bros — and I’ve seen young, Millennial women who grew up in more advanced parts of the country where they didn’t know what it’s like to be a young female in the southern part of the nation, born in the 70s; growing up in the 80s; getting your driver’s license and going to high school in a time, the 90s, when we were still teaching women how not to get raped instead of teaching young boys not to rape, I’ve seen them down play and disrespect the accomplishments of Hillary Clinton. And they all seem to lack the fundamental understanding of what Hillary Clinton gave little girls like me: a dream.
My niece, who coincidentally enough was born on Hillary Clinton’s mother’s birthday and the same day that women were given the right to vote in this country, while I myself share a day of birth with Bill Clinton, got to see something last night I could only dream about in that dark, paneled, hot attic office of mine. The chance for a woman to lead the United States of America. And not just any woman — a woman who has shown, time and time again, that not only does she get back up from everything that’s ever knocked her down, as plenty have succeeded, but she gets back up stronger, better and a more skilled, competent fighter.
She’s resilience. She is perseverance. She is determination. And she is resolve. Even in times I’m almost sure that Job himself would have a hard time, she has mastered the art of understanding patience, acceptance, diligence, and that fundamental and so often forgotten basic — that public service is not about building yourself up, taking cheap shots, throwing low blows. It’s about the good of the majority. It’s about dignity. It’s about backbone to fight for those who need it. It’s about them — us — it’s not about you.
She takes more than I ever could and she has endured more than almost anybody I know or have studied in politics, and through it all, Hillary Clinton has came out on the other side more humble, with more knowledge, intuitively teachable, and a better leader than she was before. Whatever particular hell it was that she unnecessarily had to go through — she did. And most importantly and admirably, she came out of it with a spine and a smile.
I laugh at the pop-culture junkies who trash Hillary Clinton while letting their daughters watch smut reality shows, draping them in labels from head to toe instead of teaching the invaluable lesson that real self-confidence and real pride comes from the inside. And I look at them, observe them, and the only way I can seem to fathom their incoherence for what Hillary Clinton has brought to the world, is the understanding that they just don’t get it — because they haven’t lived it.
Regardless of male or female, black or white, Democrat or Republican, watching Hillary Clinton know that she clenched the nomination for the Democratic candidate for president of the United States of America is a moment that little girls like me have been looking forward to since 1992 — and some even before that.
Don’t knock what you don’t understand, and don’t diss what you could never possibly feel. White males have never understand the kind of barriers that have held others back in certain aspects of society, like people of color, women, people with disabilities. The white male has always been the dominating force in America and will never understand, although they think they do with their “take our country back” pushback consisting of their anger that people are now receiving the same treatment as they’ve always benefited from, but they can’t understand it — because they’ve never lived it.
So allow somebody who grew up a little girl in the south at a time where people — shamefully — were still openly, and without remorse, practicing racism, sexism, and homophobia to tell you what last night was about.
It was about the possibilities in the greatest nation on earth.
End of story.
Full freaking stop.
It’s not about you, dude.
Stop trying to make it.
To all the little girls who have gone before me and the ones who will come after, dreaming that same big-deal dream, last night was for you, Madam.
And nobody can take that magic away from us. And that magic is that here, in the greatest nation on Earth, the one thing that will NEVER be for sale is that when I walk in that ballot box, I can punch that ticket for any candidate I like.
And the leading candidate with the most popular votes for president of the United States of America is not only the most qualified presidential candidate in modern times, and is not only bad — she’s a girl.
We did that, America.
It’s not my problem if you can’t accept that or it irrates you.
But you will not ruin it for all the little girls like me.
It’s been too darn long coming. And we thank President Obama for all that change he promised is gonna come. It’s here, and if it goes our way in November, staying for four more years.
Candi is a lifelong reader, writer, Democrat, and kid keeper. She lives in Middle Tennessee and rants electronically coast to coast.