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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Richard Nixon, Mitt Romney, and Me

What is the worst that could happen? If you have to ask yourself this, you are already in a dangerous place. However, failing to consider all the possibilities is even more dangerous. If you don’t believe me, look at history, the news, or my life.

Richard Nixon. Before his first televised debate with John Kennedy, Nixon failed to consider what a catastrophe it might be. The result? Kennedy looked young, vibrant, and relaxed while Nixon looked sweaty and ill. Kennedy was good at speaking in exhilarating generalities, with just enough specifics to silence his critics, and he looked directly at the camera and made eye contact with the vast television audience. Nixon appeared argumentative and distant, and he forgot to look at anyone other than the moderator. His campaign would never fully recover from this incident, at least not enough to negate the power of Kennedy’s wealth and charisma.

 Mitt Romney. In a year when pundits are claiming that, due to the economy, it should be an easy win against Obama, Romney has been negligent in his thinking. Otherwise, it would have occurred to him that the Obama camp could easily paint him as a wealthy, out-of-touch elitist who looks down on the American everyman, all the while bending the rules by jumping through loopholes afforded to him only through wealth and privilege.  Romney would have watched his back, and checked for hidden cameras before making claims about the irresponsible 47% who don’t pay taxes. He would have found a way to silence the issue of his own taxes, without looking like a potential liar or hypocrite. It remains to be seen if Romney can or will recover from his misstep, but it will take a lot.

 Me. Before my husband left for an extensive work trip to Ghana, I should have asked myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Not to him, but to me. If I had, I would have realized that a daycare crisis was imminent.

Abby, my three-and-a-half-year-old, was KICKED OUT of daycare on Friday. And by kicked out, I mean permanently. No notice, no warning. She got into a fight with another child, and this child happens to be the daycare’s owner son.  Abby bit him. Hard. To be fair, they do have an upfront, no-biting policy. But kicking her out seems awfully extreme, and dare I say, political.

My son, Noah (who is 15 months old) gets to stay. That’s of little consolation, however, until I find a place for Abby. Besides, I’m so angry at this point, I don’t particularly want to keep Noah there.

But that still isn’t the worst that could happen.

Friday evening I was home, the kids were watching Sesame Street, and I was making dinner. I was also battling a fierce headache brought on by the adrenaline from arguing and pleading with the daycare people. Then my phone rang. It was Natalie, my mother-in-law. I answered it only because I knew she’d call back until she got me. Natalie and I get along okay, but she has a very strong personality, and even stronger opinions, which she is never afraid to voice. (For example, she made her doubts about Monty’s and my marriage known, because I got pregnant first and we got married second. Then, when it was clear I was sticking around, she pressured us repeatedly to have another baby before I was “too old.” This was while I suffered through a miscarriage and then fertility problems. But we’re past all that now.)

“Lucy,” she said, without even saying hello, “have you been following the news? They’re saying it was a terrorist attack in Libya. Possibly Al Qaeda. Those things have a way of spreading. I really think Monty should come home.”

I squeezed the can opener that I had clenched in my hand, tightly, and the can of Chef Boyardee raviolis opened with a burst. I held back my annoyed sigh and tried to answer her in an even tone.

“Natalie, I understand how you feel, believe me, I do. But he’s there for work, it’s important, and terrorist attacks in Ghana have been pretty nonexistent.”

“I know, but…”

I snapped. “But nothing.” We’d had this conversation already, several times, and I just wasn’t in the mood. “I can’t worry about this right now. Abby just got kicked out of daycare, okay? So I need to worry about what I’m going to do, because starting Monday morning,  I have nobody to take care of her.”

There was a long silence, and I worried that I offended her. I was just about to apologize, when she spoke.

“Lucy, say no more. I’ll come to Seattle and help you.”


“I was a working mom. I completely understand what you’re going through. And David, bless his soul, was never any help. Tell you what, I’ll hang up right now and see if I can get a weekend flight.”

“Natalie, that’s sweet, but I can’t ask you to do that.”

“I’m offering. And I want to. I’ll call you right back.” Click. The line went dead.

And there I was, standing in my kitchen, scooping cold ravioli into a microwave-safe dish and reeling from what just happened.

This could be the salvation I need. Or, it could be a unique passport to hell. Nevertheless, Natalie is getting in this evening and staying for an undetermined amount of time. And like Richard Nixon and Mitt Romney, I have been left wondering if it’s already too late to be asking myself: What’s the worst that could happen?
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