As the pendulum swings

The Right called just before Christmas. A woman asked for my Significant Republican, but he wasn’t home. So she settled for the missus and launched into a fearful account of what horror the 2006 elections might entail.

To be honest, I should have paid more attention to specifics as her voice rose, but I was reading e-mail, barely listening. The basics: Democrats could pick up seats in Congress. Worst case—Democrats could take the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid could become, gasp, Senate Majority Leader!

“Good for Harry,” I told the woman. “Hurrah for the Democrats! It’s about time.”

She was silent.

“I’m sorry, you’re talking to the wrong person.”


I could have gloated at that point, said something like: “Maybe people are finally starting to wake up to the Republicans’ abuse of power, their malicious disregard for working folks and flouting of the Constitution. Maybe we’re realizing how mean Republican policies are, how hypocritical it is to argue for smaller government by cutting programs that help people, then exponentially expanding the national debt by slashing taxes for the rich and, finally, hocking our children’s future to pay for the invasion of nations that pose no threat to us.”

I didn’t have the heart. I let her finish her job.

“I have to read this,” she said. “ ‘Donations to the Republican Party are not tax-deductible …’ “

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“Happy holidays,” she replied.

I drove past two motor vehicle accidents on the way to the store where last-minute shoppers played bumper cars with shopping carts.

“Every year, it gets worse,” a dark-haired man told his wife. They were walking past aisles of holiday candles and Christmas candy.

“Yeah, so much hype,” the wife replied. She was a shortish with permed hair.

“Christmas is really getting overblown,” he went on. “Who needs all this stuff?”

“And they go into debt to buy all of it,” his wife noted.

I was beginning to like this couple. I’ve resolved, in 2006, to do much less shopping, to acquire fewer new items, to make what I have last longer.

I followed them up a wide aisle toward household appliances.

“I’m not in debt because …,” she said. I didn’t catch the last half of the sentence, as her head was turned. “Of course, I’m totally broke.”


“Yeah. So what do you think? A toaster oven for Sally? She doesn’t have a toaster oven.”

“A toaster oven. That would be nice.”

“Doesn’t this place have the best candles?”

“Yeah, smells good.”

With that, the couple went on to fill up their cart.

We’re celebrating New Year’s Eve with our teenagers this year. In past years, we’ve done the casino party thing. These days, I’m painfully aware that my last two young ‘uns teeter on the cusp of adulthood. My 17-year-old daughter is being wooed by colleges far away. My 15-year-old son, a sophomore, hopes in two years to traverse the globe as a migrant skateboarding laborer.

By 2008, my household could consist of the Significant Republican, me and two large lab-mix mutts. The thought of this does funny things to my intestines.

So we’ll celebrate the joys and turmoil that 2006 is expected to bring—Senate Majority Leader Harry!—by taking the kids out for dinner and going to a movie or bowling. By 11 or so, we’ll work our way downtown for fireworks.

We’ll be the family wearing gaudy hats and beads that hasn’t lost a couple hundred gambling. We’ll be making some noise but won’t wake up Sunday afternoon with a hangover. (I’m saving that for another time.)

If you see us, stop and say hi.