Election Day was always a big event in my house when I was growing up. My father, a self-employed upholsterer, would put down his tack hammer, put on his good shoes—the ones not encrusted with tacks—put on his one and only suit, and top it all off with a classy blue fedora, a hat he otherwise kept in a box in the closet and only wore to funerals.
My mother would also dress up, as best she could, considering our mostly hand-to-mouth existence back then. Money came in spurts, as work was completed, so a new dress was usually not an option when the most pressing need was food.
As dedicated as they were to dressing up, they fell short on citizenship, at least in my opinion. Oh, they voted, all right, a straight party ticket, but they didn’t have a clue who the candidates were or what they stood for. As one election led to another, I began to challenge them on their choices. Why, I asked, would you vote counter to your interests? That guy is against everything we need, and he doesn’t care about people like us.
My father’s response was always something like, “Well, son, I’ve been a member of this party for years, and I’m not about to change now.”
One election year I actually gave them both a written quiz, asking them to choose between two unnamed candidates by voting on the candidates’ platforms. Once they had completed the quiz, I scored it, and passed it back to them with the name of the candidate they agreed with most.
My father took one look at the name, balled up the paper, and stormed from the room. My mother was less dramatic, patting me on the knee as she rose to follow my father. “Don’t you ever do that again, young man.”
Seconds later my father echoed her sentiment from the next room: Ever!
She stood over me, hands on hips, and then, instead of following up with something like father knows best, she smiled at me, leaned down, and whispered, “Nothing’s going to change the way your father votes, but just so you know, my vote always cancels his out.”
I sat there, stunned, mouth agape.
“Close that mouth or you’ll catch a fly,” she said, winking.
When I started to respond, she just held up a hand. “Don’t say a word.”
“But why would you—”
“Hush now, it’s a marriage thing.”