By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY
Cindy Wolfe Boynton is taking a Hilgrimage this summer.
Our plucky chapter president and admitted Hillary Clinton “groupie” plans to visit the former First Lady’s childhood home outside Chicago and other pivotal places in her life en route to NOW’s National Conference in Minneapolis, MN. in July.
Her route is a little circuitous, wending its way through several midwestern and southern states, including Arkansas, where she’ll find the house where Bill and Hillary Cilnton wed in 1974.
Cindy is making the 29-day trip decidedly alone, leaving her husband Ted and two adult sons to fend for themselves. She’s says she’s waited a lifetime for this trip and wants to do it her way, with no interference or input from anyone.
“If I want to sit in the sun and do nothing all day, that’s what I’m going to do,” Cindy, 51, said. “Since 1985 when I began dating my husband, I’ve always had to adjust to being someone’s wife, mother, or daughter. This is the first trip I’ll ever take where I can do whatever I want, when I want, and not have to apologize for it.”
Though Cindy can sunbathe if she wants, she plans to spend much of her time meeting with feminists in various states and visiting places that have been instrumental to the women’s movement. A longtime freelance writer and college writing instructor, she plans to write about her experiences, possibly for an upcoming book.
Cindy shared plans for her excellent adventure with me after attending “A Night With the Clintons” at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford. She deftly deflected my suggestion that I accompany her on one leg of the journey. Well, I tried. And let’s face it: we all secretly wish we can stow away with someone making a break for it Thelma and Louise-style.
Cindy has been mapping her journey for months, and in typical fashion, already has all of her motel rooms booked. Going to see Hillary at the last-minute was a no-brainer for Cindy, who worked tirelessly on her campaign in 2016.
Though ticket sales initially appeared sluggish for the even, the Clintons delayed their talk by about 40 minutes while hundreds of people jostled for parking spaces in heavy downpours Friday night.
By the time moderator Star Jones began questioning the couple, the hall was packed with Clinton supporters. There was hooting and hollering, with the occasional call of “We need you Hillary!” and “2020!” But it’s clear that Hillary’s campaign days are behind her, and she’s still regrouping from her loss to President Trump in November, 2016.
There were no surprises during the 90-minute talk, which included snippets about the Clintons’ courtship at Yale Law School in the early 70s. Fun fact: Bill Clinton once cajoled a Yale security guard to unlock a museum for Hillary, who was disappointed it was closed. The only caveat was the couple had to pick up garbage outside the museum because Yale workers were on strike.
“I’ve always considered myself very pro labor and this was the only time I crossed a picket line,” Bill said. “But I didn’t really cross a picket line because it was just one guy inside the museum. And I didn’t think anybody would mind us picking up leaves, sticks and other debris.”
Bill Clinton also confessed that he was smitten with Hillary from the start, proposing to her at least three times before she said yes. The couple joked that she has a history of turning down proposals from powerful men, noting she refused President Obama’s invitation to become Secretary of State several times before finally accepting it.
The Clintons appeared relaxed and rested during the talk, which was panned by some reporters a shameless and boring money-raising nostalgia tour for the couple. I guess they have a point. Listening to the Clintons made me long for the good old days when our country’s leaders listened and negotiated instead of ruling with an iron fist, accusing reporters of fake news and calling people names like a 6-year-old.
Bill’s voice is raspier than during his presidency, though he still has the southern charm that helped win him two elections. He spun several yarns about growing up in Arkansas, reminding the audience that the National Rifle Association plays on the fears of people in rural areas like those in his home state.
The couple spoke of the need for a ban on automatic assault weapons and stricter background checks to reduce the number of mass shootings in this country. And they pointed out that reducing gun violence won’t happen until voters take a stand at the polls and make gun control a voting issue.
I texted Cindy when I heard the Clintons would be at Oakdale. She had something on her calendar, but it looked like the weather wouldn’t cooperate so yes, she’d be there. In fact, she wanted to sit in the orchestra section so she could get a good look at “her girl” Hillary.
Though typically tardy like me, Cindy arrived about an hour early and stood in a long line in heavy rain as security officers searched people and ran them through metal detectors. She stood by the will call window for another hour as my husband and I sat in a traffic jam in the parking lot. Most people would have been angry or discouraged, but Cindy patiently asked for her ticket when I finally arrived.
I could see that Cindy was anxious to take her seat. She was about to see and hear her hero Hillary, whom she credits with helping her cope with the death of her father in the summer of 2016.
“If it wasn’t for the campaign, I’d probably have crawled into a ball and stayed in bed after my father’s death,” Cindy said. “Being involved in that campaign was important because it was something greater than myself. My father had never voted for a Democrat in his life, but he planned to vote for Hillary in November.”
Cindy dived head first into Hillary’s campaign, heading up a field office in Milford, CT., aimed at garnering votes in Connecticut and New Hampshire. Along the way, she met Hillary several times. She says she was most impressed by Hillary’s willingness to listen to people with an open mind, and change her opinion when necessary. She was also struck by her ability to make and forge lasting friendships with people along the campaign trail.
Though devastated by Hillary’s defeat in November, 2016, Cindy channeled her disappointment into her own political campaign. She ran as a Democrat for state representative in the 117th District covering Milford, Orange and West Haven, narrowly losing to the Republican incumbent last November.
I’ve long considered Cindy one of the most fearless, persistent and confident people I know. And I think the recent loss of her beloved mother Barbara, who died unexpectedly in March, has made her even stronger and more resilient, if that’s possible.
Nearly 18 years ago, Cindy was one of the first people I told that I adopted my daughter. She was my second child and only 6 days old, and I was still in the adjustment phase when Cindy called me one morning to ask me about an article I was writing for her health magazine.
“I’m sorry, I just adopted a little girl,” I said. “I’m a little out of it this morning.”
“I’m adopted!” she chirped.
Somehow, hearing Cindy say those words was comforting and reassuring. She is, after all, one of the most talented people I know. But it’s her self confidence and belief in herself that’s always impressed me most. She doesn’t take no for an answer, isn’t fazed by the haters who trashed her on Facebook during her campaign. In fact, she left the comments up, saying she’d be happy to discuss issues with people in person.
“She is so self-confident,” my husband Steve remarked this morning. “And it’s not in an arrogant or self-important way. She just exudes the feeling that nothing bothers her. It may on the inside, but she’s appears to be unflappable.”
And in this way, she is so very remarkable, a product of two parents who clearly adored her and convinced her she could do anything she wanted in life. She’s taking her “Hilgrimage,” and doing it her way. I wouldn’t expect anything less, and I’m sure her parents would approve.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy of Guilford is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut NOW chapter’s blog.