Hey all, it's Census Day! If you haven't filled out your 2010 census form, do so! It's fun, painless, and important!
Dear Mr. President,
My roommates and I have already filled out our census form, it providing us with one evening of jokes and giggles about which traditional family role each of the four of us represented. We're an odd sort of household, four unrelated early-20-something females; one white, one Guatemalan, one Puerto Rican-Irish, and one Hidatsa-Mandan, all in a two-bedroom fifth-floor apartment. We hail, respectively, from a small town, an island state, a big city, and a foreign military base. We attend Art school, Massage school, and State University. We're respectively Catholic, Wicca, Atheist, and, well, whatever I am. We all have very different dreams.
One of the surprising things that unites us is the role our grandparents played in our upbringing. Each of us was brought up by our grandmothers, either because our parents had to work or were unable to provide stable homes. My own grandmother watched my sister and I after school while our parents were at work. She cooked us dinner, helped us with homework, and entertained us with stories from her childhood adventures living on a ranch in Wyoming. We loved her and feared her and often suspected she might be a little bit crazy. I think of her now, not as she is, slowly losing her grasp on the present in an assisted living facility in Nebraska, but as she must have been before I knew her; young and feisty and terribly brave. She never went back to school after the 8th grade, because the United States entered WWII and she had to stay home to help out. She adopted two sons and lost her husband to a car accident, surviving the kind of poverty that widows in every society through history have known.
My roommates' grandmothers are the stuff of myth; one is still working full-time yet still seems to know whenever her grandkids need her for groceries, new shoes, advice or a good scolding. One has adopted her grandchildren as her own, facing the difficulties of being a parent all over again, passing her strength and her compassion on to the next generation. These women helped shape us into the women we have become. Our upbringing, much like our current family of four, was never traditional or reflected in what popular culture taught us normal looked like. We learned early, as your own unique upbringing must have taught you, as well; there is no such thing as a 'normal' family.
This is why I am glad that the White House, in observance of Census Day, made sure to point out the unusual makeup of the first family, noting that Sasha and Malia's grandmother lives with you in the White House, complicating your own census form. I'm sure that, for all of the uniqueness and opportunity of being First Daughters, the girls are glad (and lucky) to have the constancy and guidance of their Grandmother at home.
Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding us that all American families need to be counted today, regardless of their eccentricities.