It was the most difficult thing I had done since I had moved to New Jersey–far worse than anything I had experienced during the campaign. It was an intellectual challenge as much as a physical challenge. I had worked as hard as I could, going step by step through a complicated process with incomplete and confusing directions. But it wasn’t enough, and I had to stop midway. I was frustrated, sweaty, and in need of a nice, soothing glass of kombucha.
“Are you finished putting that crib together?” Emma asked.
“Not quite yet,” I said.
“You need to get that finished today,” she said. “It’s IKEA furniture. It can’t be that hard to put together.”
“Explain to me why we couldn’t have bought a crib that was already put together,” I said.
“Because my mother gave this crib to us,” Emma said. She was almost nine months pregnant now, and she was lying on the chaise lounge downstairs, binge-watching Orange is the New Black, which I didn’t like because of the implicit threat of violence inherent in the prison system.
“I will get it done,” I said. “But I need a cold drink, and I think I have a splinter in my finger.”
“Just so long as you get finished before this baby gets here,” she said. “This reminds me. You need to make sure there are clean sheets on the bed in the guest room.”
“I already did that,” I said. “Yesterday morning.”
“Why did you do that?” Emma asked. “I hadn’t even told you about…”
“About what?” I asked. “I didn’t put the sheets on the bed because you asked me to, I put them on because…”
“My mother is coming to stay with us,” we both said, at the exact same time. And then, “What did you say?”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Emma said. “Your mother is coming to stay?”
“Just for a little while, during the primary next week. Your mother is coming to stay?”
“Yes, to help take care of me during the last part of the primary campaign. She’ll probably stay until the baby gets here, and then maybe for a couple of weeks after that.”
“So how are we going to do this? They both can’t stay in the guest bedroom.”
“Can’t your mother stay in a hotel?” Emma asked.
“Can’t your mother stay in a hotel?” I asked.
“My mother is staying here,” Emma said. “Your mother can have her yacht towed up the Delaware or something.”
“Let’s not make this about a money thing,” I said.
“It is a money thing for my mom,” Emma said. “Let’s be reasonable about this.”
“Do we have another guest bedroom?” I asked. “It’s a big house.”
“There is that other room that’s locked, the one that we can’t find the key for. If you can call a locksmith, and get it opened, and clean out all the dead mice or whatever, your mom can stay there.”
“So I need to find her a hotel room, is what you’re saying,” I said. Dead mice are, shall we say, not in my remit.
“That, and you need to talk to me, and give me some warning that she’s coming, like I just gave you. Got it?”
“Got it,” I said, and went back upstairs to finish putting the crib together.
*
“Such nice weather we’re having,” Stacy said. Stacy was Emma’s mom. She was staying with us. She would be staying with us, apparently, for quite some time. Stacy was an early riser who thought that fair-trade coffee was “too fancy” for her to drink. We’d had a very enlightening conversation about almond milk that morning, but that was about as much as we’d talked.
“I hadn’t given it much thought,” my mom said. Her left foot was still in a walking cast, but she had acquired a walker with wheels, with a basket stuffed full of Bernie Sanders campaign literature. I hadn’t spotted a Justin T. Fairchild brochure in there, but I assumed that she must have grabbed a couple at some point.
“You must be very proud of your son,” Stacy said.
“Which one?” my mom asked.
“Well, Justin, of course.”
“Mother is having her little joke,” I said. I’d gotten Chinese takeout for everyone in the hopes that we could all have a nice family dinner before I had to drive Mom back to the Hanover Inn.
“We’ll see how well he does in November,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pride in him winning the nomination when he’s running unopposed.”
“Still, it’s a real accomplishment,” Stacy said.
“If you say so,” Mom said. “You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m much more focused on the presidential primary. Have you voted?”
“I voted by mail,” Stacy said. “For Hillary, so you needn’t bother trying to convert me.”
“I would never try to convert anyone,” Mom said. “But, still, it’s disappointing to hear you say so.”
“Can we not talk politics?” Emma asked. She was on the chaise lounge, eating a tortilla wrap with peanut butter and leftover Thai takeout chicken. (I say “tortilla wrap” because it would be cultural appropriation to call that a “burrito,” and would also be wrong.)
“It’s exciting that Hillary will be the first woman president, no matter what you think about her,” Stacy said. “Setting politics aside for a moment.”
“It would be more exciting to have a truly revolutionary president, for a change,” Mom said. “I mean, I know Hillary is a woman. We were in the same feminist collective at Yale when she was in law school. But she was out for herself then, and she’s out for herself now. She’s always willing to give lip service to progressive causes, but she’s really just out to feather her own nest.”
“What an awful thing to say,” Stacy said, “about a dedicated public servant. If she wanted to make money, she could have gone to Wall Street after Bill left the White House, but did she? No. She went to the Senate.”
“And collected a six-figure book advance along the way,” Mom said. “Don’t be fooled by her veneer.”
“Easy for you to say,” Stacy said, “with all of your millions.”
“I am a proud member of the proletariat,” Mom said. “My husband’s earnings are incidental. I support myself through teaching, and use what I make to spread the word about international socialism.”
“Through the medium of interpretative dance,” I said.
“Not so much with this cast,” Mom said. “But, yes. You act as though you’ve heard this discussion before, Justin.”
“My little joke,” I said.
“You don’t get Hermes scarves like that on a teacher’s salary,” Stacy said. “I should know.”
“It was a gift,” Mom said. It had been a gift from Hugo Chavez, if I remembered correctly, but I wasn’t about to say anything.
“Bernie lost,” Stacy said. “He should give up. Every day he’s in there is another day that lunatic Trump gets closer to the White House.”
“MOTHER,” Emma shouted. “Stop it. Stop it with the politics, okay? Both of you. Please. I am begging you.”
“Why is that, dear?” Mom asked.
“Because I think I just had a contraction, that’s why.”
*****
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen: The Trending Topic