While U.S. history was made, seasons changed

  • Geneva Overholser / Washington Post columnist
  • Sunday, December 17, 2000 9:00pm
  • Opinion

WASHINGTON — Finally, life can begin to return to normal.

Loosed from the minute-to-minute news reports, we may shift our gaze to the morning’s ice storm: Has it closed our local schools, or simply delayed their opening by two hours?

It seems a remarkable luxury, this feeling that life as we’ve known it can resume. Of course, for some — particularly in this hotbed of politicians, journalists and lawyers — the readjustment is outsized. But we’ve all, in our own way, been in thrall to the history being made.

Now, unchained at last from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, we can hear the crows caw and the rain fall. We can leave the people of Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade to their own devices and chat once more with the neighbors and the clerk at the corner drugstore.

Liberated from the neck-snapping, minute-to-minute changes in the news, we can move on to the season at hand. The tree that stands, undecorated. The gifts, listed on scraps of paper at moments stolen from rushed meetings or news conferences, as yet unbought. The lights to be strung on the bushes out front.

No longer hanging upon every chad — dimpled, swinging-gate or pregnant — we turn our attention to the laundry to be picked up, the oil to be changed, the light bulbs to be replaced. Ted Olson and David Boies, be gone. There are doctors’ appointments to be rescheduled and the plumber to be called about that garbage disposal that died on Thanksgiving morning.

We can’t, of course, resurrect events. The annual holiday fetes not held this time around. The panels that went begging for panelists. The dinners arrived at as dessert was served, the lunches forfeited. The PTA meetings unattended, church services missed, swim meets we didn’t get to.

The 4 a.m. bedtimes cannot be revised, nor the bleary-eyed mornings erased. The autumn mountain-getaway weekend — counted upon through endless months of campaigning, canceled when the election itself wouldn’t end — can’t be retrieved.

But, fretting no more about equal protection, caring no longer about safe harbors, we can begin, just tentatively, to put our minds to other things. That new novel we’ve been wanting to read. The movies others have been raving about. The friends we’ve had no chance to see. The neighborhood issues to be caught up on. The exercise routine to be restored. The family mealtimes — ah, luxury — to be returned to.

Of course, we can’t go back, not all at once, to the rhythms of normal life. The transition must be gradual. To live at the pace of these five weeks has been addictive. The adrenaline rush of it: Bush is up one moment. Gore’s resurrected the next. A decision is due. A decision is delivered. A recount is begun. A recount is halted. The Florida Supreme Court giveth, the U.S. Supreme Court taketh away.

Minute to minute, history has been created. The apolitical have become attuned; the political junkies, frenzied. We’ve acquainted ourselves with judicial procedures, unearthed the likes of Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes, and forever committed to memory the name of Florida’s secretary of state. Even our teen-agers talk of electoral votes.

But it’s over.

We have a president-elect. The concession has been made, the acceptance delivered.

And, while we weren’t watching, the seasons changed. The leaves accumulated, then iced over. Squirrels chewed at the pumpkins still on the stoop. That building under construction around the corner was completed. A few blocks away, a new stop sign was put into place.

There’s a lot to get caught up on.

Besides, there are things to be done, matters to be addressed in the nation’s capital. There is a transition to be packed into one month. A Cabinet to be named. An inauguration to prepare for. There’s Bill Clinton’s legacy to ponder. And a whole campaign to be looked back upon, poked over and analyzed, endlessly analyzed — now that finally, after all, it really, truly is over.

Ah, normalcy. Welcome.

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