I’m happy -- flattered even -- to share my little plot of Internet real estate with my neighbor, Eliot Cutler. With the right algorithm, you might find his ad for governor at the bottom of this post, too. Since the holy grail of today’s politics is “finding common ground,” kudos to all seven people who read this blog and see his message.
“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” the saying goes, but the more interesting phenomena are not the tribes that politics create, but the tribalism. Politics can be silly, like grade school, which reminds me that the best thing I have in common with Eliot Cutler is his nephew, Jack.
Jack befriended my son on the first day of kindergarten at Small School in South Portland. This funny, big-hearted, cute kid came with equal parts irreverence and wit, making him one of very few 5 year-olds fun to be around for more than 15 minutes.
Compared to my son, Harrison, the firstborn to nervous and mildly intolerant parents, Jack is the youngest of three to calm, incredibly warm, confident people who helped us loosen our grip, and as a result enriched our lives. We reluctantly caved to gentle pressure, for example, to let the boys ski alone at Sugarloaf, in the glades, and they were out for hours having terrific fun.
And we nervously agreed to let Harrison take up Jack’s generous invitation see a Warren Miller film at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, at night, when they were "only" 10 years-old. The Polaroid photo capturing their joy remains on display in Harrison’s room, and the memory of my anxiety waiting up for his safe return is now humorous.
When the store opened in town selling Cosmic Wimpout and Lord of the Rings cards to tattooed people with black nail polish and guage earrings, Jack led the way. Soon packs of kids were running around our house waving sticks and beating back imaginary orks in breathless frenzy, as existential parenting questions raced through my mind.
“Is pretend violence okay if your child is fighting imaginary evil?”
Now after our family ritual of watching all three Lord of the Rings films, my non-violent kids inevitably pick up where they left off years ago, using rolls of Christmas wrapping paper as swords.
In October of 2003 we moved just up the road from South Portland to Cape Elizabeth. Jack came over to play, and his mother brought us a delicious cake on a beautiful square plate as a house warming gift. The two boys took off down the hill to our new neighbors’ yard to join a skirmish of kids playing, as if nothing had changed.
My new neighbors were very impressed with Jack, who they were told was the son of Governor John Baldacci. And they believed him.
I laugh every time I think of this story, and I suspect Eliot might chuckle if he hears it, too.