I was in my office at campaign headquarters, sipping on an organic watermelon smoothie, and going over the last two weeks of e-mails, which I had neglected because I was staying home to help take care of the baby. I had spent the entire morning showing baby pictures to the staff and volunteers, and if I never hear the words "ohmyGod he’s so cute" again, it will be fine with me.
(I am not saying that Richie is not cute, because he is, but it is just my opinion that his cuteness does not have to be the fulcrum of any and every conversation between two adults.)
I got an e-mail from my brother, which had an image that he’d gotten from some comic book. (I actually bought an Iron Man comic book once with my allowance, but my mother found out and made me throw it away, and then re-directed my allowance towards the Mumia Abu-Jamal legal defense fund, so I’m not exactly up on comic books.) Anyway, this particular comic book had Justin Trudeau on the cover. He was sitting on a stool, wearing a red maple-leaf tank top, and wearing boxing gloves. (I had to look up what those were on Wikipedia.) In the drawing, Trudeau looked strong and fit, with massive shoulder muscles, and handsome, with a sharply chiseled nose. I made a grunting sound and deleted the e-mail without comment.
“Are you okay?” Polly said. “You grunted. You usually don’t do that.”
“I’m fine,” I said. Stupid Justin Trudeau.
“You’re not upset about the sit-in, are you?” The House Democrats had staged a sit-in on the floor of the house to protest GOP inaction on gun-control legislation.
“Not really,” I said. “I mean, yeah, I want to be there for that, but I have to get elected first. I don’t suppose the internal polling numbers have gotten any better on gun control, have they?”
“They have not,” Polly said. “As you know. You lose five points from independents if you call for aggressive gun control, and you don’t gain anything from liberals.”
“I don’t understand why that is,” I said.
“I keep telling you, it’s a rural district. As you would know if you’d get out in the smaller towns and do walk-arounds.”
“It’s hot, and it’s humid, and I am not getting any sleep,” I explain. “Sorry.”
“You can’t win this election sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, you know. You need to get out there and fight.”
“Can I finish my watermelon smoothie first?” I asked.
I let Polly drive me out to northern Hanover County, and I did a meet-and-greet at a farmer’s market, and I brought home ten pounds of kale to bulk up my next round of smoothies. I carried the box of kale into the house and dropped it on the kitchen table, because it was kind of heavy, and it ended up being pretty loud and I woke up both Emma and the baby, and I kind of got yelled at. (In my defense, it was really heavy.) But it all got sorted out, and I made dinner, and got to hold the baby for a while. I was not really good at this at first, but I am getting better, and I was able to hold him for ten more minutes before he started crying.
“Why is he crying?” I asked.
“Is he wet?” Emma asked.
“Doesn’t seem to be.”
“He’s not hungry. Try singing to him.”
I tried singing a snatch of “Jimmie Crack Corn”–it is from the Pete Seeger children’s album that my mother sent us for the baby–but that made the crying even worse.
“Oh, wait,” Emma said. “He probably wants Mr. Taft.”
“He wants what again?” I asked.
“Mr. Taft. He’s over on the couch. You’ll have to hold it for him.”
Mr. Taft was a stuffed animal, as it turned out. Specifically, Mr. Taft was an elephant–a gray elephant with a cheeky smile.
“What’s with the stuffed elephant?” I asked.
“Isn’t it nice? Mark Campbell’s staff sent it over as a goodwill gesture. I thought that was very nice of him.”
“I thought we weren’t doing stuffed animals,” I said. “Just bleached wooden toys.”
“Richie loves Mr. Taft,” she said. “It’s the only thing that keeps him quiet.”
“And why is he called Mr. Taft?’ I asked.
“Had to name him something,” Emma responded. “William Howard Taft is probably the least objectionable Republican president of the last hundred years.”
“It’s a Republican elephant,” I said. “Our child is playing with a Republican elephant, and you are OK with it.”
“Cory Booker sent a donkey,” she said, “but Richie won’t play with it. He likes the elephant. So do I. It’s cute. And our son is not going to grow up to be a Republican because he plays with a stuffed elephant. Get real.”
I could see Richie’s face light up as I waved the stuffed elephant in front of him, and he happily batted away at the trunk with his little hands.
“Are there any other little surprise gifts out there that I don’t know about?” I asked. “Did Wayne LaPierre send him a Baby’s First Glock?”
“No, of course not. Do you have to make everything about politics?”
“I’m running for Congress, so, yeah.”
“You’re not running right now. Sit back. Enjoy playing with your baby.”
I sat back. I held Richie in my arms and enjoyed the moment. It was nice. But it was just the start. I knew I had to go the distance for Richie, but I also wanted to go the distance with Richie–to have him along at my side as I moved through the corridors of power, to indoctrinate him on income inequality and the wage gap and the racist superstructures inherent in a large capitalist economy. But that could wait. For now, I was playing with a stuffed elephant, and making elephant sounds, and Richie wasn’t crying, and I figured that was a win.
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
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two: The 3AM Feeding
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