It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Shoe. (Or an Election.)

20161128_131946As Thanksgiving 2016 winds to a close, there’s just one thing left to do: Brady and I each wrap a pinky finger around one side of the wishbone from our turkey dinner. At stake? One wish, winner take all.

It’s been a good day. Brady was in charge of the pre-dinner prayer (“thank you for all the technology”). I was in charge of dessert (pumpkin mousse pie and pumpkin cupcakes). In between, we scarfed a boatload of food: turkey, green beans, stuffing, rolls, sweet potato casserole (with toasted marshmallows), and cranberry sauce (the yummy homemade kind, not the scary jiggly canned kind). After dinner, I volunteer for Brady Entertainment Duty, which gets me out of doing dishes, although the down side is that I’m not around to supervise the divvying up of the leftovers (#AuditTheStuffing).

Brady and I decide on our wishes, and then we each give our side a big tug. Brady (with an assist from my Dad) ends up with the larger piece. I ask him what he wished for.

Brady looks up at me earnestly and says, “I wished for it to rain candy corn.”

I lower my voice to a whisper. “Did you make that wish up? So you could keep your REAL wish a secret?”

He looks at me like I’m a total moron. (He’ll probably use this look on his parents in about 10 years).

“No. That’s my wish.”

20151126_155725-1We squeeze in together for a picture and smile for the camera – Brady holding up the winning end of the wishbone and me the losing end. We’re family – and best buddies – and we always will be. After a hard-fought competition, we are ready to put aside old grievances and move forward together.

Just like America.

Ha, ha! I’m kidding, of course.

Two days before the election, I actually received a clear omen of the coming apocalypse, although I failed to recognize it at the time. You see, on November 6th, the unthinkable happened: Brady and I had our first Superhero and Sidekick spat.

It starts off like a regular Sunday play date. General Mommy drops Brady off at my place, and he kicks off his shoes and asks for an apple juice box. As the afternoon progresses, we eat some vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream (using the “special spoons” tucked underneath the single-serving lids). Brady pretends to be Clark Kent and records a “newscast” on my computer. He talks me into putting on my Wonder Woman costume. We say “Boo Boo Butt” and “Stinky Sock Slushee” a bunch of times, and we laugh and laugh and laugh!

We’re scheduled to rendezvous with General Mommy at 1700 hours. Before we can leave, Brady needs to put his shoes back on. Except that I can only find ONE shoe.

Fu – I mean Fudgsicle. I look in every room. I pull out all of the couch cushions. I look under the bed. I crawl underneath the dining room table.

20161119_172713-1The minutes tick by, and although I’m trying to stay calm, panic is starting to creep in. The ONE good thing about this situation is that we’ve only lost a shoe (which doesn’t seem to perturb Brady at all) as opposed to losing say, his Batwing, which would have induced a complete five-year-old freak-out.

But now I’m getting close to a full-on grownup freak-out. “Brady,” I say, “We were supposed to be at General Mommy’s RIGHT NOW. I need you to help me look for the other shoe!”

Brady, who apparently hasn’t heard a single word, casually saunters into the dining room with an empty Amazon Prime box. He holds the box out like an offering, looks up at me, and says innocently, “Will you cut a hole in this?”

GAAAAAAA!

I take a deep breath.

“NO, Brady, I CAN’T cut a hole in that box! WE NEED TO FIND YOUR OTHER SHOE!!!” I’m trying really hard not to lose it.

I continue the search. Brady appears to be busy. I hope he’s looking for the shoe. As I crawl out from underneath the dining room table for the fourth time, he ambles in from the hallway, still holding the Amazon box. Except now it is no longer empty, but instead contains a bunch of small plastic packaging pillows, a balloon, and a flashlight.

Brady holds up the box. “Give me the other shoe,” he says urgently. “I will make another one in the SHOE DUPLICATOR MACHINE!”

Oh. Holy. Crap. You have GOT to be freaking kidding me. There’s no way I am going to risk losing track of the one remaining shoe.

I take a deep breath and narrow my eyes. “No. I am NOT giving you the other shoe.”

Brady looks completely stunned. Perhaps it’s because I rarely say no to him, regardless of whether he’s asking me to give him some ice cream, buy him an R2-D2 keychain, do the chicken dance, or wear a Wonder Woman costume. And now I’ve said “No” twice in the last five minutes. Or maybe it’s that he just can’t believe I’m not fully appreciating the brilliance of the Shoe Duplicator Machine. He tries one more time: “GIVE ME THE OTHER SHOE!!!”

I can’t believe that he is not fully appreciating the urgency of the situation. “No, I am NOT GIVING YOU THE OTHER SHOE!!!”

Brady sulks while I engage in a few more minutes of frantic, yet futile, searching. Finally, I am forced to admit defeat. I reluctantly pull out my cell phone and dial General Mommy’s number. I inform her that Brady is missing one shoe.

General Mommy points out that Brady had TWO shoes when she dropped him off. My first choice of a reply involves the phrase “Captain Obvious,” which I quickly realize is probably not the best response. Instead, I take a deep breath and state that yes, I am fully aware that Brady arrived at my condo with two shoes, one for each foot. I inform General Mommy that we are leaving without the missing shoe and provide an updated ETA.

I help Brady put on the one shoe we haven’t lost, and we head out the door. I’m extremely flustered and a little annoyed that he wouldn’t help me look for the shoe. He’s clearly aggravated that I wouldn’t put the remaining shoe in the Shoe Duplicator Machine. This is probably the first time that our Superhero and Sidekick relationship has been tested.

Brady recovers a bit of his usual good cheer when I tell him that he has to hold my hand and hop on one foot until we get him buckled into the back seat of my car. Then once we arrive at his house, I give him a piggyback ride from my car to his front door. (Because all I need now is for him to step on something sharp with his one bare foot to officially be the Worst. Auntie. Ever.)

20161106_175123-2We say our goodbyes (“See you later, alligator”) and I return home and resume the search. I eventually find the shoe underneath a rolling office chair. I call General Mommy, who says that I can bring it over the following week. However, in an effort to get closure on the situation as quickly as possible, I drive to my parents’ house and hand off the rogue shoe to my Mom, who promises to return it to General Mommy the next day.

Later that evening, it occurs to me that the shoe was placed just a little too perfectly, right up against one of the wheeled chair legs – and that it’s very possible Brady might have had some actual knowledge of the shoe’s whereabouts. I feel a twinge of annoyance. But then I realize that if I’d just given him the other shoe, the Duplicator Machine would have miraculously produced the missing one – and we could have gotten him home quicker and with a whole lot less drama.

Yes, the Shoe Duplicator Standoff was clearly a portent of things to come.

Now, it was never my intent to use this blog for a political platform, so if you want to bail out now, feel free to do so. Really. No hard feelings.

Still here? Excellent.

Before I move on, I’d like to share some words from a newspaper editorial penned by Theodore Roosevelt in 1918:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

Here’s the unpleasant truth. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ran his entire campaign based on empty promises, half-baked ideas, and bold-faced lies. As he travelled across the country, he deliberately stirred up hate, anger, fear, and discord.

And yet somehow, bold-faced lies won the day. Anger won the day. Discord won the day. As anyone with a Facebook account can attest, the 2016 Presidential campaign has ripped apart families and long-standing friendships. And the ugly undercurrent of hate in our society that had mostly been flying under the radar has now found a voice in the new administration.

Between November 9th and November 14th, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 400 cases of “hateful intimidation and harassment.” The neo-Nazi (or alt-right if you prefer) National Policy Institute celebrated the results of the election at a recent meeting in Washington DC. The Ku Klux Klan is planning a parade in honor of You-Know-Who. The New York Times has added a new feature called “This Week in Hate.”

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named stated during a 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl that he was “saddened” to hear of these issues. And the following week, in a meeting with the New York Times, he claimed to “condemn and disavow” specific hate groups. However, I suspect the NPI and the KKK weren’t exactly quaking in their boots. They probably took the whole thing in stride – just like Hostess, Nabisco, and Frito-Lay do every January when I condemn and disavow Ding-Dongs, Mega Stuf Oreos, and Fritos. They know it’s not personal – and that sooner or later, I’ll be back.

In that same New York Times meeting, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named also stated…

OK, this is ridiculous. To quote a truly great leader, humanitarian, and statesman (Albus Dumbledore), “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” So let’s start calling You-Know-Who by his proper name.

It’s Donald Trrrrr-

I mean, it’s Donald Trrrrrrruuuuuuu-

Oh, crap. I can’t even make myself type it. So let’s just take the wimpy way out for now and call him Voldemort. (With, of course, sincere apologies to Voldemort).

Anyway, as Voldemort stated in the New York Times meeting, “I want to bring the country together. It’s very important to me.”

Seriously? Because if you follow Voldemort’s actions and his Tweets over the last couple of weeks, it seems that bringing the country together isn’t exactly in the “Urgent and Important” quadrant of his time management matrix. But here’s what is:

  • Taking TV news stations to task for using unflattering photos of him.
  • Complaining about the “failing” New York Times.
  • Accusing the Hamilton cast of “harassment”.
  • Asking Saturday Night Live for “equal time”.
  • Convincing the country that he could have won a T**** University trial.
  • Falsely taking credit for “saving” a Ford plant.
  • Bragging that if the election had been based on the popular vote, he would have “campaigned differently” and “won even bigger and more easily”. (Wow, those 2+ million votes have really gotten under his skin, huh?)
  • Making accusations of massive voter fraud.
  • Suggesting that flag-burners should go to jail and/or have their American citizenship revoked.

However, he apparently hasn’t had any time yet to ponder the pesky details behind “bringing the country together”.

I actually do have one suggestion as to how Voldemort can begin to make things right again. It’s pretty darn easy and super inexpensive, probably even free. But he’s not going to like it.

Journalist Nicholas Kristof recently published an opinion piece in the New York Times titled, “A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect T****.”

Mr. Kristof’s article is an excellent read. But ironically, the real key as to how the country can begin the healing process comes from the actual Twelve Steps steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, particularly steps Eight and Nine:

  1. “[We] made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
  2. “[We] made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

For Voldemort, making amends would have to include both individuals and entire groups who were harmed by his campaign rhetoric. This obviously won’t fix all of the divisions in our nation, as many of these cracks were in place long before the current Presidential campaign. Voldemort just chose to deepen and exploit them for his own benefit. But the list – and the amends – would be a good start to facilitate healing and foster unity. And really, it’s the only way to start. To try and approach “bringing the country together” by any other means would be to cover up an elephant turd in your living room with a Snuggie blanket and then just walk around it every day.

But since we’re not likely to see “direct amends” anytime soon from the incoming administration, the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to move on.

When the time came for my first post-election play date with Brady, my heart was far too broken to be my usual goofy Auntie self. But I knew it was still important to show up. Even though I felt like I was just going through the motions, I managed to get some laughs by saying “Boo Boo Butt” and “Stinky Sock Slushee”. At one point, Brady announced that he wanted to play “Election.” Oh. Holy. Crap. As he grabbed a crayon and a stack of paper and started to write up pretend ballots, I was afraid that my Happy Auntie Armor would start to crack if I had to relive Voldemort’s election night win. But it turned out that the candidates were actually Brady and one of his stuffed animals, Willey Wildbear. I voted for Brady and gave thanks that I didn’t have to look at Voldemort’s name on the ballot.

A few days later, though, I wasn’t quite so lucky. I was driving Brady home after another play date. We were singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and of course, we add in all the extra goofy parts. (“Like a light bulb!”) As the song wraps up with “You’ll go down in history,” we shout, “Like Columbus!” Then I add, “And Abraham Lincoln!” And then Brady says, very quietly, “And Donald T****.”

Oh, Fu – I mean Fudgsicle.

No, let’s be honest. I really DON’T mean “Fudgsicle”.

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“Shaggy Plays The Armpit” – by Brady, Age 5

But I’m already kind of in trouble for encouraging Brady to say “Boo Boo Butt” and “Stinky Sock Slushee” and “Bigger Booger Burger”. And then there’s the whole thing with the armpit noises. (Which was totally NOT my fault, as I’m not the one who picked out a DVD where Shaggy from Scooby-Doo tells Gene Simmons that he can “play a mean armpit.” Humph.) Anyway, I’m fairly certain that the Queen Mother of Dirty Words would NOT go over well at kindergarten.

I hold my breath, and Brady doesn’t press the issue. We move on to “Frosty the Snowman” with no further mention of Dona – I mean Voldemort.

I find out after the fact that Brady apparently heard of Voldemort at kindergarten.

This is worrisome. Brady’s curiosity grows day by day, and he asks a ton of questions. What happens if he brings up Voldemort again? I can see the conversation going like this:

Brady: something something something VOLDEMORT something something

(Auntie Kimberly makes a tiny croaking sound while looking like she just swallowed a live toad.)

B: I said, do you like Voldemort?

AK: We are very lucky to live in a free country where I am allowed to say so if I disagree with the President.

B: So you don’t like Voldemort?

AK: I, um, disagree with him.

B: Why?

AK: Because he is a misogynistic, racist, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic, hypocritical, corrupt bully.

B: What do all the words before “bully” mean?

AK (breaking into a sweat): Fu-…fu-…fu-….fu-….FUDGSICLE! Boo Boo Butt!! Stinky Sock Slushee!! Bigger Booger Burger!!! Hey! Let’s make some armpit noises!!

I mean, Brady’s five. He shouldn’t have to hear about the KKK or the Neo-Nazis. Or how the future leader of the free world bragged about grabbing women by the p*ssy. Brady’s life should be filled with laughter and super heroes and LEGOs and standing on his head and climbing on the monkey bars and jumping in mud puddles and telling knock knock jokes and dressing up on Halloween.

But I’m somewhat heartened by the fact that I actually only have the vaguest of memories of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The only influence that the Nixon presidency had on my childhood was that the Watergate hearings were on EVERY. FREAKING. CHANNEL. (And there were only four at the time). And I kinda remember Gerald Ford stumbling out of Air Force One, but on further reflection, maybe I’m actually thinking of Chevy Chase. I was nine when Jimmy Carter was elected, and by then, I was much more aware of what was happening outside my comfy bubble of going to school, building forts, riding bikes, going roller skating, watching cartoons, and swallowing magnets. (Ask me about that one sometime). So hopefully, a Voldemort presidency won’t leave a lasting impression on Brady.

And I’m also heartened by the fact that kids aren’t born with hate.

One day, Brady was working on an art project, and I was serving as Official Scotch Tape Assistant. As I was handing over one particularly large strand, the tape got all tangled up. Channeling SNL’s Willie and Frankie, I said, “I hate when that happens!”

Brady looked up at me solemnly and said, “It’s not nice to hate.”

I told him he was exactly right and that I was sorry. (I figured this wasn’t exactly the best time to try and explain the classic 80s era Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest sketches).

So hopefully, we grownups can manage to hang on for a decade or two without blowing up the planet or passing on our baggage to the next generation. Then perhaps by the time Brady is old enough to vote, hate and discord won’t have a place in election campaigns.

But in the meantime, how do we live through the next four years?

As an American, I’ll tell the unpleasant truth. I’ll reject hate, in all its forms. I’ll donate my time and money to causes that will suffer under a Voldemort administration. I’ll support quality journalism and speak out for our First Amendment rights. I’ll be a LOT more involved in primary elections and in tracking pending legislation. I’ll pressure my elected officials to confront conflict of interest issues, instead of sweeping them under the Snuggie blanket.

But as an Auntie, I’ll try to make sure that Brady can spend the next four years just being a kid. I’ll make him laugh by saying “Boo Boo Butt” and “Bigger Booger Burger” and “Stinky Sock Slushee”. I’ll buy him stuffed animals and LEGO minifigs and silly books and cupcakes and superhero plates. I’ll do the chicken dance. I’ll wear the Wonder Woman costume. I’ll make armpit noises.

And I’ll do my damnedest to figure out how to make it rain candy corn.

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