Afterward we'd sit down to a special dinner. My grandmother believed in Election Day dinners. In my memory these were almost as elaborate as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, although they involved cold foods, not hot: picnic food in November. My birthday fell a few days before Election Day (still does), and so for me the air was doubly charged.
Once dinner was finished my mother, grandmother, uncle, and aunt would scurry to the family room and watch the returns, sometimes well into the next morning. They, political junkies all, were never more animated than on election night. I would lie on the floor and half-listen to swells of conversation. I didn't understand most of it but by its pitch and tone I could suss out who was winning or losing, and whether we (unified in this if nothing else) were happy about it. No one ever remembered to put me to bed. I'm not sure they knew I was in the room.
Three of four of those people have died, and yet they are with me on Election Day. This I know: They would be appalled by this election season. They would be inhaling it as reliably as they inhaled the smoke from their cigarettes. If they knew how to do so they would be checking fivethirtyeight.com as obsessively as I am.
I miss my grandmother, mother, and uncle most on the first or second Tuesday in November. On Tuesday I may not use switches and levers to cast my vote for HRC, but when I ink circles I will sense my departed family gathered around me much the way my brother and I swirled around my mother as she voted. I will smell their cigarettes and feel their passion for the electoral process. And I will be buoyed by their legacy as I vote for the candidate they would have chosen.