My most memorable Election Day was November 8, 1988. It was a lovely fall day that feels like it unfolded yesterday. In the late morning Nancy and I along with our nearly three year old son sauntered the four blocks through our genuinely historic neighborhood to the local elementary school to vote. The school which dates to 1898 had one of those elevated stages overlooking a multipurpose gymnasium and auditorium. Voting was held on the stage.

I remember the walk to the school—the blue sky and golden light, many of the tall trees nearly bare but most of the smaller trees and shrubs still retaining colorful leaves. One old Victorian house sported an election poster touting Herbert Hoover in a prominent window. Our son wore his Halloween costume—he was Uncle Sam that year, a little guy in striped red and white pants and a blue sport coat with a lapel pin reading VOTE! On his head he wore a top hat with red and white stripes and blue stars. Not to be totally outdone by my well-appointed son, I added some vintage election pins to my lapels including a giant Nixon Agnew button from 1968. At the polling place on the school stage an initially gruff election judge warns me that there is no electioneering allowed. I reply that I don't think any of my candidates are on this year's ballot. She looks more closely and laughs.

That 1988 election is best remembered by political junkies for giving us the Willy Horton attack ad linking the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, with a scary black criminal who while on parole killed a white kid. Dukakis, believing that people would see through the ad as just a desperate hatchet job by the opposition never responded. Republican George H.W. Bush, though initially a substantial underdog, was elected by a comfortable margin.

This Election Day in Northern Illinois is nothing like that one 24 years ago. The beautiful early and mid fall is well over, it looks and feels like mid to late November. Yesterday the ice in the bird bath never quite completely melted and in our greenhouses where the water has not been purged from the irrigation lines we probably burst a few pipes last night in the clear moonlit cold.

This morning we voted in a church basement. This is the first presidential election that the long time election judge has missed. Unfortunately, she has developed serious dementia issues and moved to an assisted living facility with her husband. Uncle Sam has grown up and practices law in Florida.

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