Signs of the Times

Last night the Write on Mamas, a wonderful group I belong to, held an Open Mic Mamas event in a local cafe. The theme was “Plan B: Now What Do We Do?” Here’s my essay:

After the primary season was over, I kept two “California for Hillary” signs on my desk in our kitchen, where they were safely hidden and kept nicely flat under a box of books.

“I’m going to frame these and give them to the girls for Christmas!” I told my husband.

“Maybe for Emma,” Jonathan remarked about our eldest, who has a penchant for memorabilia.  “But Ally will hate it.”

“That’s not the point,” I snapped.

I had grander considerations than what the girls might actually like. Maybe I’d even crack the picture frames’ glass for special symbolic significance marking the historic event to come on November 8! 

But instead of shattered ceilings, Election Day brought shattered hopes.

Jonathan and I tried to pick up the pieces, fielding frantic texts from our daughters as the evening unfolded.


“Keep the faith,” I texted back. “It will just be closer and a longer night than we’d hoped.”

Two hours later, I had dropped all optimism, all pretense of maternal comfort. Unless, of course, ‘Fucking unbelievable!” counts as reassurance.

After that, I had little to offer Emma and Ally other than comparing notes about whether we were stress-eating, or unable to eat at all.

Jonathan, as usual, was spot-on. He wrote: “We’re fortunate to have a loving family with strong values. By always cherishing and building on this, we can prevent those who appeal to hatred and divisiveness from defeating us. -Love, Daddy.”

This made me even more irritated, but only because his response was so much better than mine, and I am a small and bitter person.

Eventually, the Christmas frenzy supplanted both my envy and post-election stress disorder, and I forgot all about the Hillary signs under the heavy box on my desk. By this time, the desk itself had nearly disappeared under wrapping paper, stacks of neglected mail, and miscellaneous junk thrown there by Emma and Ally once they arrived home for the holidays.

After Christmas, realizing it might be a good idea to pay some bills—which first required finding them–I began to sort through the piles. Soon enough I unearthed the Hillary signs, and, showing them to the girls, told them of my abandoned gift idea.

“I’m so glad you didn’t do that,” Ally said, rolling her eyes.

“It might have been nice,” added Emma, ever the diplomat. “But hard to take on the plane.”

Still, I couldn’t bear to throw away the signs. I refused to consign Hillary to the dustbin of history.

Instead, I repurposed her.

As it turns out, the resistance needs good signs. As it further turns out, my Hillary signs, taped to a yardstick and covered with fresh paper, form a great foundation for what’s needed in the many protests now and to come. Sure, it would have been good if my Plan B included some rudimentary artistic skills. It would have been even better if the election outcome had been such that we didn’t need to make all these damn signs! But alas, that’s not the reality we live in now.

My first repurposed sign, for the healthcare rally on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall, proclaimed: “Obamacare, NOT ‘We Don’t Care.'”

For the Women’s March in Oakland, I taped on a new sheet of paper and wrote: “YES WE CAN PROTECT AND PREVAIL.”

My sign still lives in my kitchen, ready for the next slogan, then ready to go. Pretty soon it will be an archeological site, with layers tracing the arc that will hopefully someday bend back toward justice—and a woman president who reflects my values.

As for my daughters, they didn’t need or want anything to hang on their walls, but have made good use of the gift of activism. The day after the Inauguration, Emma marched in LA, Ally in San Francisco. They made their own signs:

 You go, girls!


Okay, I lied, or at least exercised poetic license. Only Ally marched with the above sign. Emma, an artist, carried a sketchpad instead of a sign, and later created the beautiful drawing at the top of this post. 

Did you march, or follow the coverage? What were your favorite signs?

6 thoughts on “Signs of the Times

  1. Pingback: Women’s March, 2020 | Shrinkrapped

  2. I loved the poster and was hoping, as I read the post, that it was one of your daughters. She should market it. I would buy it. Thank her for putting “Free Palestine” at the top.

  3. Following the coverage with interest. Hard to know what’s truth or not though. It will be interesting to see how his visit here goes. He’s certainly not going to receive a warm welcome from the public.

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