I’m a mother. And the candidate is my only child. So when I heard the other side was having a breakfast to do, I couldn’t resist taking a look at his opponent. I put on my new blue jean jacket, a clean shirt and drove myself to Southampton a few mornings ago to the church where the speakers were going to be. I had a few questions of my own.
I was shocked that I couldn’t get in the door without paying. I even tried to talk myself out of the fee. But no go. They wouldn’t let me in without my 25-buck contribution. I gave my name and my cash, they gave me a name tag, and I went in. I should mention I go by my maiden name—and vote that way.
My son is a a Republican. I’ve never voted Republican and neither has the candidate’s father. Nor did either of my son’s dead (rolling in their graves) Grandparents on either side. I’ll leave it at that.
I chatted around for a while. Shook some hands. I met the head of the Town Democratic Party, a silver-haired gent with a mellifluous voice who could easily have been an actor. I also met the man my son hopes to replace, who maxed out on term limits and now seeks a different office; he was genial and pleasant, if slightly disengaged.
Everyone was very cordial. Everyone was friendly, I was asked to sit down and join several different tables. Not so bad, I thought, and actually felt a bit better that my son wasn’t going to be facing a pack of wolves, and might not get the proverbial knife in the back we always hear about politics these days.
Then I met Her, the woman my son is running against. We shook hands. We looked each other in the eye. She’s a tall pleasant- looking woman at least twenty years older than my son. I extended my hand and introduced myself. I even said I was having a book signing that night at the East Hampton bookstore.
Since she didn’t know who I was, I couldn’t resist. I looked her in the eye, and said as innocently as I could, “Now tell me about your opponent.”
The tall woman turned cold and mean.
“I don’t speak his name,” she said emphatically. I was shocked, and asked, “why ever not?” As if she hadn’t heard me, she added menacingly, “if anyone speaks his name at Headquarters, they are fined! They have to put a quarter in the jar.” Surely she must be joking, I thought, but her face was steely and devoid of any irony or humor.
Oy, I thought, as the mother of He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named. This is going to be a nasty race. I felt immediately protective of my son, who while being a tough customer, also has a really soft heart. It was upsetting and frankly bizarre to hear a fellow mother speak of my son in such a dehumanized way. I’ve certainly heard my son speak her name: with some bravado sure, but always with respect. I wished I had a roll of quarters, like I used to get from the bank before I had a washing machine. His name is ____, I imagined yelling, before plunking down quarter after quarter.
I drifted around the room some more. The breakfast buffet looked sort of crummy, cold bagels and runny eggs; some greasy potatoes. I’d been there about forty minutes. I was curious what they’d say in their speeches. Were they going to say something awful about my son? Would I be able to stand it?
The gent who looked like an actor approached me. And he didn’t look so friendly anymore. “you’re ______’s mother aren’t you?”
I admitted I was and I couldn’t have been more surprised. Flabbergasted is a better word.
In fact, I hadn’t felt so busted since Nodie Williams and I got caught smoking cigarettes in the men’s bathroom at St. Vincent’s Academy at least five hundred years ago. I could feel my face turning red just as it had when Sister Paula Marie forged through the door and suspended us both on the spot.
“I’m sorry!” I said and I was. I think I might also have said something about wasn’t this a free country? Hadn’t I paid my twenty-five bucks to see what the candidates said? Wasn’t I a voter too? I felt his eyes watching me carefully.
I talked to some other people. Presumably word had not spread through the entire crowd as to my dubious bona fides. A pretty woman about my age and I talked about fashion, I smiled at several other folks.
Feeling decidedly unwelcome, I decided to go back to the Chairman of the party and bid my adieu. “I’m a mother,” I said to the guy, “I meant you no harm. If you like, I will go now before the speeches start. You may be mad at me, but now I have to go back and tell my son what I did.”
“Yes, that’s probably best,” he said.
Several hours later when I told my son, he laughed and thought the whole thing was highly amusing and told me he loved me. He was much nicer than the politicos of the party I’ve always voted for.
I didn’t get to hear the speeches. And I didn’t have the chutzpa to ask for my money back. I wish I had though.