Mama Likes Obama or Billy Bedwetter Eats Pancakes by Karen Uffelman
They were so very tired by the time they got home.
On the long walk from the train they passed by the window fronts of bars and restaurants, and Molly could see the debate on big screens, two big heads with moving lips – talking or smirking or interrupting. Molly got punished when she interrupted, but she did it anyway. So delicious to stop someone else from talking just by opening your own mouth.
“Mama likes Obama but I like McCain!” she chanted. Mama pulled her along, grimacing but not taking the bait.
“You, Molly, are an idiot,” her brother said from the other side of her mother’s big coat. “McCain eats little children like you for breakfast! He learned to eat ‘em when he was locked away in jail for 30 years. He loves ‘em!”
“Shut up!” screamed Molly. “You eat boogers!”
“Nope, I put ‘em in your sandwiches.”
“That’s enough, Ian,” Mama pulled them a little faster. It was past six, she had no idea what she was going to feed the children for dinner, and she really wanted to see the goddamn debate. Not watching through one of the windows, but in her own house, where it wasn’t 49 degrees and drizzling, and where the scene her children were making wouldn’t be quite so public.
It was another half-mile once they passed the shops and bars. Molly was sniveling, saying she couldn’t walk anymore. Ian had stuck something in Molly’s hair, something disgusting, probably. They were both hungry, Mama reminded herself, not responsible for acting like monsters. She was already carrying Ian’s saxophone, and had slung Molly’s backpack over one shoulder. She couldn’t imagine what Molly had in there to make it so heavy, or why 7th graders should be made to carry such big, awkward instruments. Molly sat down on the wet sidewalk and said she would go no further. Ian kicked her leg and she started to cry in earnest.
“We’re almost there, okay, and then…then, we’re having pancakes.”
Like magic, both children perked up. Molly rose from the sidewalk, like the undead, and Ian restrained himself from pushing her back down. Ten minutes later, and Mama was unlocking the door, turning on lights, turning up the heat, turning on the TV.
Molly wrapped herself in the afghan on the couch, and Ian sat down next to her, shoving a little with his elbow.
Mama walked around the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room and said, “I’m going to say this once: if either of you talk during the debate – one word – I’m going to take all of the pancakes I make and throw them in the garbage. Got it?”
“Got it, Mama,” Molly whispered.
Ian glared at her, “Great – now she’s going to throw away our dinner!”
“Starting now, okay?” Mama said, “Starting now. No more talking starting now.” She clearly sucked at this parenting thing. She wondered how much gin was left in the bottle above the fridge and if her kids would notice their mother downing a stiff martini. What goes great with pancakes? Gin, of course! She found a chair and climbed up to the cupboard.
MCCAIN: Now, Senator Obama, I’d like — still like to know what that fine is going to be, and I don’t think that Joe right now wants to pay a fine when he is seeing such difficult times in America’s economy.
Senator Obama wants to set up health care bureaucracies, take over the health care of America through — as he said, his object is a single payer system.
If you like that, you’ll love Canada and England. So the point is…
SCHIEFFER: So that’s your objective?
OBAMA: It is not and I didn’t describe it…
MCCAIN: No, you stated it.
OBAMA: I just…
MCCAIN: Excuse me.
“Mom, are we going to be like Canada and England?” Ian asked.
“I hope so,” Mama replied, taking another swallow of the vermouth-less martini and swirling butter around the frying pan.
“I don’t want to go to Canada and England!” Molly whined.
“You’re not going anywhere, loser!”
“You’re not supposed to be talking, right?” Mama let the skillet come down a little hard on the stove to make her point.
SCHIEFFER: But you don’t want Roe v. Wade to be overturned?
MCCAIN: I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad.
“What’s Row and Wade? Is it a boat?” Molly looked back at Mama.
“It’s a law, honey, that lets women choose if they want to have babies or not.”
“I want to have a baby, Mama!”
“Good – then McCain will eat it for breakfast!”
“I’m warning you, Ian!” Mama poured some batter into the frying pan.
OBAMA: I’ll just give you one quick example. Senator McCain and I disagreed recently when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination. For years, she had been getting paid less than a man had been paid for doing the exact same job.
Mama flipped some pancakes onto plates.
“Pancakes are ready!”
“Lilly Ledbetter, Lilly Ledbetter,” Molly sang, with the syrup bottle upside down over her plate.
“Billy Bedwetter, Billy Bedwetter,” Ian echoed, spilling milk on the counter.
The kids settled back in on the couch. Mama slipped a couple more ice cubes in her glass and poured herself the last of the gin.
“Sit with us, Mama!” Molly said with her mouth full, patting the cushion between her and Ian. She had syrup dripping down her chin. Mama sat down between them, put her arms around each of their shoulders and pulled them close.
OBAMA: …but it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be quick. It is going to be requiring all of us — Democrats, Republicans, independents — to come together and to renew a spirit of sacrifice and service and responsibility.
I’m absolutely convinced we can do it. I would ask for your vote, and I promise you that if you give me the extraordinary honor of serving as your president, I will work every single day, tirelessly, on your behalf and on the behalf of the future of our children.
“I just love pancakes for dinner, Mama,”Molly licked her sticky fingers.
Ian put his head on Mama’s shoulder. “I hope we get to go to Canada and England.”
“Me, too,” Mama sighed, “me, too.”