How a mother taught her daughter the forms and fiction of this year’s Presidential election.
Emma spoke in soft, pastel tones, a cadence she continued to carry into her early-forties.
“Don’t you think the lawn looks healthier this year then the last,” she doted, spearing the topsoil with a pronged shaped piece of silver steel. A pair of equally sharp, blue eyes looked her directly into her perfectly oval face.
“Yea, momma! The leaves are all brown and red and purple, but the lawn is still kinda green!”
Her daughter had just celebrated her sixth birthday just a few weeks prior; it was an early evening choked by rubber balloons and littered pink ribbons. The cake, carrot based from a packaged mix but dressed in a family-favorite cream cheese icing, sat comfortably amongst a dozen or so of her closest friends; the four other mothers in attendance clustered in a far corner, wine glasses healthy and plump. Predominantly white, of course. Grape and complexion alike. But, none the less, the cake read in hues of purple stenciled icing, “Happy Sixth Birthday!”
“Why did someone take the other sign, do yuhh think,” she retorted, seeing the abandoned bit of plastic wrapping listless on the driveway.
Driving the metal rods deeper and deeper into the ground as if to embed them into the very bedrock themselves; wishing onlookers would respect her property; hoping she wouldn’t have to anxiously gaze out her bedroom window every late-night; believing, surely, the two men’s names inscribed in the blue background would do well by her God, Emma answered her daughter’s plea for understanding.
“Actually no, girls like you and me, like your aunt and cousins, like your friends at your birthday party can be too! The crooked person running against him just isn’t a good.” There was never an opportune moment wasted to throw his opponent under the bus.
“She’s lied to our country over and over and would probably send us into another war. She’s just all words and no talk. But don’t worry honey, he will make this country great again if he gets into the White house.”
Their house was steeped in what they would call modest family values. Dinner was had around a lien table every evening around seven. Emma’s husband—a prominent, well-respected investment banker of six-foot-three who spent his weekdays either traveling throughout Pennsylvania or confound to his Aspinwall office—would slump into the dining room at the day’s end, often with his daughter’s feet atop his. Step after each stilted step, they’d make make their way to a set table for three from the door leading into the garage. (He once, absentmindedly, left his M-series running whilst the garage door was closed after combing back from Pittsburgh. She hasn’t, truthfully, forgiven him for killing the family cat.)
Occasionally the T.V. was left on.
Her daughter, plucking an autumn leaf from a low-slung oak tree, nodded with an ambivalent sense of understanding.
Emma recoiled—without too much in the way of surprise. “Don’t say that in public, let alone shout it!”
It was ironic, albeit it circumsational, to raise her voice in the silencing of another.
“Never use that word again! Where did you even hear it?”
“On the T.V. after desert,” she said. “You and daddy went outside to see Krissy and Tom’s new porch.”
Krissy and Tom also had the same signs walled along their suburban lawn.
“It was on the news, I think.”
She wasn’t a stranger to social discourse—Emma, that is. Afterall, she totted a rich career in marital counseling before leaving her degree from Penn State to gather dust from the wayside of her now defunct office. It’s a gym now. A quiet space, a comfortable space. A thirteen-by-ten-foot room walled-in rectangle where she’s no longer a mother or wife, a neighbor or conservative. Or, frankly, unemployed. She’s neither a dreamer nor wanderer. She’s alone to her own thoughts, however distorted they may be those on the other side of the windowpane. Horse blinders and pulled plum drapes in a room downing in acres of white noise.
“That’s a very, very bad word and will get you in trouble, do you hear me?” Her brow relaxed.
Emma walked tensely toward the plastic wrapping to gather it for the trash; she and her husband thought little of recycling, let alone climate change. “You can’t believe everything you hear on T.V.. Everyone’s remediable. Jesus forgave sin, so can we.”
She found herself apologizing in the name of sworn religious practices outside her own social circles. Grace rarely found it’s way onto the tongues of others once politics entered into the conversation. A woman, small-framed, disproportionately breasted, dyed brown hair caressing her red left cheek, once shouted vulgar slurs passing her second-story house. She only knew of the incident’s happening because her daughter was drawing on the concrete driveway with neon chalks. (Emma took note to set the sprinkler a bit more to the left later in afternoon, dampening the drawing of what appeared to be a pictorial ode to Tommy, days after his ashes were ready for pick-up.) It shook her to her core, rattled her back bone. Made her angry, sealed her vote.
She prayed daily for erasure and forgiveness./ She callused the knees for the well-being of her daughter. She was quite in her concerns.
“But that’s not what that pretty lady said wearing the blue.” Emma was beginning to think of turning off the T.V. before the bread was buttered.
“And everyone clapped when she said girls should be respected.”
Michelle Obama’s allure was without fault. Emma, despite party affiliation, found solace in her stature. The First Lady’s colloquial imperfections only gave her character. Her reliability grew. Sprouted above lower manners with each speech. Never has a woman so close to the Oval Office been as up-tide, so attuned to the multitude of cultural zeitgeists. Sleeveless gowns smiled across her taut shoulder blades. Her March Vogue covers still sits tucked away in her bedside drawer.
“She reminds me of my Mrs. Owens! I like her,” she exclaimed, making her way to her mother’s open-faced palm.
The knot in Emma’s throat had grown from a meer seed to a swallowed stone fruit. “Yes, The First Lady is great, but she’s not like the rest of them,” harvesting, in her sense, the ripe dichotomy between the two. “We don’t and won’t support such crooked-ness as a family. Plus, you’re father loves hunting too much.”
Crumpling that now gathered plastic casing into an audible, rounded mass, she greeted her daughter’s reaching hand with her own freed one. “We all love her, even your dad! But she’s not like her husband.”
And, with hands clasped and the clock leaning half-past six, the two made their way toward the family’s jared front door.
“It’s just locker room talk, any ways.”