With so much politics in the news, I can’t help but remember back to my first participation in the political process. In September of 1976, my junior high school was holding a mini mock election, giving every student the
chance to vote in it as if we were of age. We could participate in debates, campaigns, speeches—the whole shebang. I was assigned to the art department, commissioned to create posters for each candidate. With exhaustive research to understand and then capture the essence of Gerald and Jimmy, and to somehow imbue each rendition with the message each candidate had to offer, I — Oh for heaven sakes. I had no idea who either of these guys were. One dude was the fellow with big teeth, and the other looked to me a lot of Frankenstein. I was as dumb as a block of wood back then. Somebody handed me pictures of two old guys, saying these are the something or other I didn’t catch, and would you draw them real big for us?
I didn’t have a shred of sense or intelligence back then. You could say I was a blank slate waiting for my character, my future, my ME to be written. But someone had lost the chalk. Those were the days when Corilee took me to her parents’ hamburger stand—The Chieftain, if I remember correctly—which was not too far off campus. She and her parents would kindly let me choose any food off the menu and her parents gave it to me without charge. I picked everything. Because I could. Never had I been given such carte blanche in my life. I was a regular glutton. After we ate great sloppy burgers smothered in ketchup and pickles and fries till we’d nearly pop, we filled our pockets with the candy they sold to all the other students and made our way back to the school grounds. But I had a strange compulsion, even in my ignorant oblivion, to walk behind the other kids who were also headed back to school, picking up all the candy wrappers and trash they dropped as they walked along, horrified at their littering. Okay, so I didn’t know the word horrified. But I didn’t like that they were dropping all that trash all over the place. I was like a duck following someone spreading bread crumbs, stopping every few feet to bend over and snatch what they dropped. The kids probably knew my proclivity to do it and set me up. Corilee was very patient with me tagging behind, possibly making us tardy to our next class. But I just couldn’t let all that SweeTarts cellophane or those PayDay wrappers stay on the grass. If only I’d known of Greenpeace back then. I could have at least applied for a junior membership. Not that I knew how to fill out an application form.
In those days Corilee and I both got crushes on two different boys. She had the idea (and I don’t say this to pass the blame, but to give credit where credit is due; I never could have come up with such a brilliant plan) to get pictures of these two poor unsuspecting boys and put them in a scrapbook or secret notebook. We were amazing stalkers. We’d go to an assembly or sporting event, sit kind of close to Danny or Steve and shout their names. When they looked over, we snapped our Kodak Pocket Instamatic at them and ran away. They had no idea, I’m certain. I knew when I got the envelop back from the Fotomat, within those bright blue blobs smeared across my prints were images of Steve. So what that they were all overexposed and blurry? He’d been there. I could sigh with infatuation. I was so licked.
Over in Minnesota around this same time, my future husband was living a very different life. I know he knew all the ins and outs of the election, and every election that came before it and since. This was the boy who at 8 cried when his candidate lost the election, the national presidential election. Eight years old, folks. This is the father who handed out maps of these United States and colored pencils to our kids when they were seven to color in each state red or blue as the results came in for Dub-Ya v. Gore. They stayed up all night. They colored within the lines. And this man married me. AH-mazing. He probably saw my drawing of Carter and Ford in my scrapbook (next to the blurry white smears labeled “Steve” with a few hearts drawn around them) and thought I knew something about politics. Or anything. Then again, maybe he just thought I had cute legs.
Want my stories delivered right to your inbox? I can do that! Click the button below to sign up and I'll make sure to send my post right to you each day that I blog.