MY TURN By Nancy Kriz

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:27

Not just a rally It’s not every day that a former president comes to town. Supporters of U.S. Rep. John Hall showed up at a rally last Saturday night at the IBEW Hall in Harriman, which featured former President Bill Clinton stumping for Hall as the election neared an end. But not everyone was necessarily there to support the candidate. Some went simply to get a glimpse, take a photo and, if luck would have it, get a photograph taken of themselves with the former president. If that happened, it would not be a time for batteries to fail. My friend Kristina Stelz and I talked late last week about Clinton’s intended visit. As mothers of elementary school age children, we reasoned that it might be a very rare opportunity to take our kids and actually have them “see and hear” a former president. After all, excluding Barak Obama, there’s only four of them in that elite club. Political viewpoints aside, what better lesson could we offer up to our second-graders about government, democracy and this nation than to see the former leader of the greatest country in the world - regardless of whether he was a Republican or Democrat? So with our husbands going along for the ride, the six of us drove to the IBEW hall in Harriman. Along the way, we sought to explain to our kids what we hoped to accomplish and why we felt it would be important for them - even if they didn’t understand why we were allowing them to stay up late on the night before one of the biggest days of the year for any child: Halloween. About 500 to 600 people attended last Saturday night’s rally, listening to Hall and his musician colleagues entertain guests while waiting for Clinton’s arrival. Hall fans were happily engaged in music and speeches. They cheered every speaker, saving the biggest, loudest roar for Clinton. He was pretty much on time, and spent 45 minutes discussing past and present policy, making a fevered pitch to Democratic loyalists about the need to support Hall, and giving his view on the ramifications of why he felt that was critical. Throughout it all, our kids’ level of restlessness grew. I can’t see anything, can you lift me up? Is it going to be over soon? Can I get a drink? This is boring. Can we go home now? When his remarks ended, hundreds of people flocked to the front of the room to the velvet rope line, looking for a chance to shake Clinton’s hand, get a book signed, strike up a brief conversation or get a photograph taken. And so did we. Taking Meghan and Michael by their hands, we headed to the front left side of the room - where everyone else was huddling - and where it was thought Clinton would be departing. We were wrong, a Secret Service man told us. He would be leaving from the right front entrance. With the crowds at least eight to 10 people deep, we quickly regrouped. With our kids in tow, we stepped back and circumvented the 10 or 12 rows of seats, thinking if we’d head up to the far right side of the rope, we might have some good fortune. We were lucky. As we diplomatically pushed our way (like everyone else) though people toward the front of rope, I met my neighbor Adrienne Fuchs who was there with her father, Woodbury Town Supervisor John Burke. Would they allow the children to get in front of them, so they could get a glimpse up close and possibly a photograph could be taken? Absolutely, she said, and it seemed our gamble would pay off. We watched Clinton work his way down the rope line, still ever the master politician. He gladly stopped to be photographed with whoever asked him, signed copies of his books, held a baby up and kissed her. Then, he arrived at where we were standing. With our kids certainly still wondering why they were there, Clinton patted each on their heads, asked their names, listened for their responses and shook their hands. Under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service crew, I asked if I could get a photograph of them with him. Clinton obliging put his arms around Meghan and Michael and they all smiled for my camera. The batteries didn’t fail. Interestingly, he lingered there for a few minutes, chatting with people about a wide range of things, continuing to allow his photograph to be taken, and allowing me to repay the kind favor of my neighbor by taking a photograph of Clinton with her father, the Woodbury supervisor. Later, in the car ride home, we four parents reviewed what had transpired minutes earlier with the now over-tired seven-year-olds. It’s okay, we told our children, if they didn’t totally understand we what felt was the significance of a handshake with someone most people would still consider to be one of the most recognizable and somewhat powerful men in the world. Someday they will. There have been only 44 presidents in the history of our country, we told them. Tonight you shook hands with one of them and we have a photograph to prove it. Michael suddenly seemed impressed with his accomplishment, and in an instant announced he was ready for more. “One down,” he announced with a booming voice from the third row of the SUV. “And 43 more to go!” Nancy Kriz is a writer and copyeditor for Straus News and lives in Chester with her family.