He didn’t win the election.
The flyer from school arrived a week earlier seeking fourth graders to run for Student Council and to be ready to give their speech on October 2nd.
My son Shawn was excited. He was going to run for Student Council because he wanted to help the school and teachers and to “get out of Spanish” once a week. Five fourth grade classes would select two student council representatives from each class. I thought for sure Shawn would win. There was no way that my past failure in student government could get passed down to my son like a mutant gene.
When I was in junior high school I wanted to do more than write short stories for the Birchland Banner and be part of the second row of flute players in band. I was going to run for Student Council so I could plan carnation sales and dances. Little did I know that my class had already cast their vote.
I was unpopular. They might as well have tattooed unpopular in scarlet across my chest.
Despite my subconscious foreboding, I made my posters and carefully taped them throughout the hallways of school on a Friday. By Monday morning they were ripped down or scribbled on or some phallic symbol carefully drawn by my name.
I didn’t win and never ran for office again.
My son’s election would be different. Shawn was athletic, handsome, funny, smart, self-assured, could make instant friends and didn’t let anything bring him down. He probably could outsmart and outwit the sad line up of presidential hopefuls monopolizing the news.
We got to work on his speech, a comparison of his elementary school’s mottos of Respectful, Responsible, Safe and Prepared to the mottos of his sleep away camp. Shawn came up with all the examples of how he was responsible including acting as head waiter for his cabin and setting their meal tables daily and working as a team with his fellow campers to clean their cabin. He talked about how he learned to listen to his new friends and respect their thoughts and feelings. He practiced his speech for a week.
On the day of the election I thought about him all day. How did the speech go, did they count the votes already? Was his little heart broken or was he skipping home beaming.
As Shawn walked off the bus I gave him a thumbs up, waiting for a big smile and a thumbs up in return. No smile and he gestured a thumbs down.
“Are you joking?” I asked as he heaved his back pack into the car.
“No, I lost.”
He seemed annoyed and tired and my heart sank. I might as well have time traveled back to 1983 and eighth grade. But this was worse. This was my son, rejected by other people. I was ready to kick some nine year old butt. What did those little neophytes know?
I managed to rummage some self-restraint.
“How many people ran?”
“How many people voted?”
“That’s not bad Shawn, that averages out to each kid getting about four votes each.”
“Vivek got seven votes. I only got four.”
“Did people like your speech?”
Shawn shrugged his shoulders.
“What did the teacher say?”
“She said everyone did a great job.”
I rolled my eyes, “She didn’t pull you aside and whisper in your ear that your speech was the best?”
“No. Vivek sang a song for his speech.”
“This is Student Council not The Voice,” my restraint was failing me, “Did he sing nice?”
“He was pretty good.”
I tried to rationalize the results, “If three girls ran they probably got all the girl votes. And Vivek plays soccer and a bunch of boys in your class know him better because they play soccer too. All and all, I think you did well.”
When we got back to the house, Shawn had a package waiting for him, the Halloween costume I ordered of a Special Forces police uniform.
“How about you put on your costume and I’ll be the bad guy and you can arrest me.”
Shawn nodded his head and got to work getting into costume.
For nearly two hours I was wrestled, pinned to my knees, handcuffed and tossed into jail repeatedly.
“You know Shawn, I don’t think cops get this physical over petty crime.”
“GET ON YOUR KNEES,” he barked.
We ordered pizza and watched Arthur’s Christmas for the fifth time. I told him I was proud of him at least ten times.
“Is the election still bugging you?”
“Nah, I’ll try again next year and will use the same speech.”
Maybe the mutant gene did skip a generation.