During the decade or so that I’ve been writing this column I have avoided controversial topics like religion and politics. But now, on the eve of this presidential election, I find myself compelled to make an exception.
I should begin by disclosing that I am a political junky. Close friends and family members have known this for a long time. Some have even suggested I have an addiction. Perhaps they’re right, if you consider it addictive behavior to sit in front of the television in my PJs from the time Morning Joe comes on at 6 a.m. until On the Record with Greta goes off at 11 p.m.
I have a couple of favorite cable “news” programs I watch all the time, but during the Presidential campaign I watch them all. If you know the program hosts by their first names like I do, you’re probably a political junky too. Names like Joe and Mika, Chris, Bill, Soledad, Bret, Anderson, Rachel, Sean, Ed, Greta, Wolf, Reverend Al, and the list goes on. In a way they’ve become almost like family – a somewhat twisted and politically dysfunctional family to be sure, but still family.
When I told my therapist I was thinking about writing this column she encouraged me to do so. She suggested that sharing my story could be cathartic for me and doing so might also help other political junkies understand they are not alone.
During a recent hypnosis session my therapist took me back to a subconscious memory from early childhood. While in a deep sleep, I described to her an experience that occurred on Nov. 3, 1948 when I was just two and a half years old. I can’t remember that day, of course, but this is the story my therapist said I described to her.
I awoke early, smiling and happy as usual. Mom unpinned and removed my wet diaper and slipped a fresh one under me. I loved the feel of the soft cotton and the smell of the talcum powder as she doused it on my bottom.
My big sister and brother, ages four and five, were already playing in the living room floor. Kathy was playing with her favorite doll baby and Bob was making choo-choo sounds as he pushed his toy train in a circle of tracks. I started making choo-choo sounds too, but my choo-choo came out as “woo-woo,” which made everyone laugh.
After some oatmeal, milk, and toast with jelly, we got dressed and Mom bundled us up in our winter coats to walk the short distance down McKenzie Avenue and around the corner on Howard Street to Granny and Grandpa’s house. Mom let me walk all the way even though it slowed everyone down.
When we arrived at Granny and Grandpa’s house we took our coats off and I headed straight for my favorite place – Granny’s lap. Granny’s lap was soft and warm and when she gave me a big hug and a kiss the whiskers on her chin tickled my face.
After rocking me for a few minutes Granny slid me to one side of her lap so she could reach the pack of Mail Pouch chewing tobacco she kept in her apron pocket. I watched as Granny took a big pinch of tobacco in her fingers and put it in her mouth. As almost always happened when Granny took a chew, a few pieces of tobacco fell in her lap. I loved the sweet aroma of the tobacco, and as I had done many times before, I picked up the little scraps of tobacco and put them in my mouth, then started to chew just like Granny. After a few minutes of chewing Granny reached for the Maxwell House coffee can she kept at the side of her chair and spit some juice in it. She offered it to me but I opened my mouth and showed her that I had already swallowed mine, which made her laugh. The juice tickled and burned a little as I swallowed it, but I liked the taste.
I guess Mom didn’t mind that I was chewing tobacco, or maybe she didn’t notice because she and Grandpa were having a big argument about something. They were shouting at each other about two men named Dewey and Truman. Mom seemed to like the man named Truman and Grandpa seemed to like the man named Dewey. I was still sitting in Granny’s lap and I started saying, “Dewey, Dewey, Dewey,” which made Granny laugh even louder than before.
But Grandpa wasn’t laughing. Instead, his face turned red as he raised a newspaper in the air, and pointing at a picture of a man in the paper he shouted, “I can’t believe that lousy good for nothing Truman beat Dewey!” Mom didn’t say anything but I started to cry. “What’s wrong, honey,” Granny asked. Looking up at her with tears in my eyes I said, “I like Dewey.”
It was at this point that my therapist awakened me from my hypnotic sleep, and told me the story I had just described to her. We had a good chuckle about Grandpa holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with a picture of Harry Truman holding a copy of the Nov. 3, 1948 paper displaying the bold headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
Then my therapist paused and gave me a serious look. “George” she said, “That was a humorous childhood memory, but I believe it may also have been a traumatic moment in your life. It’s possible that this experience instilled in you a love for politics, especially Presidential campaigns. It may even be that softly repeating Dewey’s name and crying when your Grandpa got angry planted a seed in your mind to prefer one political party over the other.”
She concluded our session by asking me to give some thought to what we had talked about, and suggested I consider forming a PJA support group (Political Junkies Anonymous.) Our next therapy session is scheduled for Nov. 7 and depending on who wins the election I might need to start that support group.
George Brown is a free lance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.