Dan’s whooping drew me into the bedroom of our Marriott Hotel suite where he was trampolining on the bed, reaching for the high ceiling with each bounce. He’d been adrenaline-pumped and sleep-deprived for days, but our nonstop, twenty-four-hour, pre-election bus tour across Michigan had obviously pushed him over the edge.
“Oh yeah! We did it!” my husband yelled as he bounded high in the air, arms flapping. “You won! We won! You won!"
“You’re crazy,” I said.
“You won!” Bounce. “All that killer work!” Bounce. “You did it!”
“No, we did it,” I smiled at him.
When we arrived at the back of the ballroom, I peeked through the slit in the curtain at the pandemonium on the other side: balloons, bunting, deep blue Granholm and Cherry signs, TV cameras crowded together on a platform in the middle of the room, and hundreds of people–school teachers in ball caps, firefighters in yellow T-shirts, store clerks, factory workers, social workers, senior citizens, pastors, and moms with their daughters holding handmade signs with messages like, "You go, GRRRL!"
I glanced at my 13-year-old daughter Kate, peeking out through the curtain with me and grinning in her braces. I flashed back to the time when First Lady Hillary Clinton had come to Detroit to speak to a women's rally at Cobo Hall, just two blocks from where we were now. Five-year-old Kate and I were lucky enough to have front row seats that night. I was a federal prosecutor and a working mom who wanted her daughter to see an inspiring role model. As the curtain parted, I lifted Kate up for a better look. Just at the moment Hillary emerged, Kate rose above the crowd, and hearing the thunderous applause, she stared at me eyes wide and asked, "Mom, are they clapping for me?"
Tonight they would be clapping for Kate and for all of us. She would go from the front row to the stage, a part of history in the making.
As the first college grad in my family, my life’s direction was forever changed when I was admitted to Harvard Law School, where I met Dan. He had been a Religious Studies major at Yale and had considered becoming a priest before deciding to attend Harvard Law. What drew me to him were his gentleness, his heart, and his passion for the poor. I loved that after Yale he’d taught theology and then spent a couple years running an inner-city human services center in New Orleans. I loved that he didn't care about making money but wanted to serve people instead. I loved that he would leave fresh lilacs or wax-paper-pressed fiery New England leaves and lyrical notes in my law school mailbox. And I loved that he was a music-loving jock who cooked a mean pot of jambalaya.
Dan intended to make a difference. He had plans of entering politics, with a dream of one day becoming governor of Michigan. I planned to be a civil rights lawyer, maybe one day a professor or judge. I thought we'd make a heckuva team.
While preparing us for marriage, Father John MacInnes, a 35-year-old assistant chaplain at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Cambridge, helped us think about the future of our relationship. In our last meeting, he asked Dan, "What if, eight or ten years from now, the Democratic Party comes to Jennifer and says, ‘We want you to run for an open Senate seat. You're smart, electable, and, this is a great time for a woman candidate.' How would you feel about that, Dan?"
I laughed out loud at the thought, but Dan considered the question seriously. “I think I'd probably feel jealous," he said at last, "I’d have some adjusting to do. But if Jennifer felt like she was being called to run, I'd support her a hundred and ten percent."
Little did we know.
My story would not be possible without a partner who was holding the safety net for me and for our family as I leaned in.