Major events are rarely as we envision them.
I pictured myself, coffee in hand, sitting in front of the TV or computer at 6am Thursday, watching the US presidential inauguration with my 16-year-old daughter (my 15-year-old son is part vampire, sleeping most of the day and evading sunlight).
When I awoke at 5.40am and turned on my phone, I heard Kamala Harris about to be sworn in. I rushed to Miss 16's room and shook her shoulder. "They've already started!"
We listened as history was made, as Harris became the first woman and person of colour to take the oath of office as vice president.
Then came Joe Biden's turn to be sworn in.
Post-inauguration, I'm looking forward to less swearing. I had developed a habit of dropping f-bombs while listening to radio news stories about now-former President Donald Trump (out of earshot of my kids).
A change in administration could do wonders for my blood pressure, too.
Sighs of relief ripple across the globe. The four-year nightmare called the Trump presidency has ended.
Yes, he's still around. Yes, 74 million Americans voted for him. But he's lost the bully pulpit of the Oval Office and even Twitter and other social media outlets kicked him off their platforms.
Many Republicans who earlier had stood by the Donald out of loyalty or fear finally denounced him following the January 6 riots at the US Capitol.
That's when extremists tried to stop lawmakers from certifying Biden's election. Five people died and countless others were hurt in the melee of MAGA hat-wearing, Trump flag-waving supporters.
In his inaugural address, Biden said democracy had triumphed. "Here we stand, days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to stop the will of the American people," he said. "It will not happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever."
The 46th president talked about the unity he sought to return to America as it battled simultaneous challenges of the Covid pandemic, racism, political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism.
"We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world. I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear and demonisation have long torn us apart."
It's all well to have singers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez perform at the event, but the real showstopper for me was Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history at age 22.
I loved everything about her presentation - her words, her yellow coat, red headscarf and the crisp, buoyant way she delivered her message while gracefully waving her hands.
"Where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade."
She continued, "And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it.
"Somehow, we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished."
Many of my fellow Americans had worried something had, in fact, broken within US democracy. That it might never have the chance to mend.
Inauguration day, those same people were celebrating - posting photos of champagne toasts, lighted candles, TV screenshots.
They described how they were dancing in the lounge and singing in the kitchen.
One friend in Washington state compared the change of command to having a giant tumour removed while still awake. "I'm sure I'll always have a little scar tissue from the last four years," he wrote.
Relief was the word on the hearts and lips of many people on Thursday. The Cambridge Dictionary defines relief as "a feeling of happiness that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended".
What former National Security Advisor Fiona Hill described as a slow-motion attempt at "self-coup" by Trump (her former boss) did not happen because honourable military officials, lawmakers and judges did their jobs, upholding the Constitution as they rebutted the former president's efforts to retain power.
It's the end of an era, though not the end of Trumpism.
Let those who value servant leadership and facts have a day or two in the sun. Ignore the trolls. They'll still be around tomorrow. And the next decade.
Master 15 wanted to know what President Biden had done his first day in office. "Is anything going to change?" he asked.
I told him yes, it will and it is. On Biden's first day, he signed 15 executive actions, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organisation, and mandating masks on all federal grounds. The Muslim travel ban - gone. Construction of the Mexican border wall and Keystone XL pipeline - halted.
To many of us, these rollbacks of previous administration policies are - a relief.
America is on the path to rejoining the world.
"The new dawn blooms as we free it," Gorman said.
- Dawn Picken is an American expat living and working in the Bay of Plenty.