She had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, but nothing had worked to clean (what looked like) black tar from the children’s skin. Yvonne’s two grandchildren had broken into the construction yard (that was being used to build the freeway) next door… to play. They had returned home covered in a spider web of black lines. Jackson and Olivia had taken sticks and had stuck them in some sort of black -toxic-waste-like-grease and with the help of the wind had drawn intricate patterns all over themselves like some sort of demonic modern painting.
“What did you think you were doing?” she asked. There was no hiding the distress in her voice as she tried in vain to remove the noxious substance from their cheeks.
“We were trying to be like Jackson Pollock. Grandma, am I named after him?” Her grandson answered innocently (pretending?) not to understand how angry she was.
“I have told you a million times not to play in that yard.”
“But we like sliding down the gravel mountains.”
This made her angrier than ever and she took them both by the arm and shook them, before she could stop herself.
“You need to promise me that you will never go into that yard again! Don’t you know that the gravel could avalanche and cover you up so we would never find you again?” The children looked down ashamed and did not answer. “Good Lord, I’m going to have to clean you two with gasoline,” she continued putting away her useless soap and shampoos. The clothing would have to be thrown away.
Later as she got them ready for bed and prepared to read them a story, Olivia asked “Granny, what is politics mean?” Never a dull moment with these two she thought – always the million dollar random questions.
“What does politics mean”, she corrected her, “Well, it’s a little complicated and I’m not sure your ready to understand, but we’ll give it a go. See this apple?” she continued holding up an apple in her hands. “Suppose you want this apple, and you want it from me. Your politics is how you get it from me and my politics is how or if I give it to you.”
“I don’t get it granny. Republicans and Democrats just want apples?” Jackson asked her perplexed.
Yvonne sighed. This was the last thing she wanted to explain before bed. Not when she had this lovely pre-written story all ready to tuck them in with she thought looking at the short story clutched in her hand. But, she was suddenly struck with inspiration so she persisted. She had a story telling gift and she was as surprised and entertained as anyone with what came out of her mouth sometimes.
“Politics is the word we use to describe the process in which we divide resources. So,” she continued, “to understand that, let’s make it very personal. Imagine your parents as the government and you two as its citizens. Your governing parents give you stuff – distribute resources to you. How do you think they decide that?”
“Which one they like best?” Jackson answered.
Yvonne chuckled “well they might do it that way. That would be one type of politics, but what if they like you both the same?” The children looked at her blankly as if that thought had never occurred to them. “If your parents love you both the same, they may look to give you resources that best suit your need or ability. As we know, Jackson likes to paint” she said sarcastically, “So maybe they would buy him brushes or art books. You like to swim, so maybe they get you access to a local pool. That would be their politics – finding resource and distributing them based on need and or aptitude. This is what we hope they are doing in Washington”
“I think daddy likes me best and mommy likes Olivia best. What kind of politics is that?”
“That politics would be called ‘Favoritism’. And that’s the type of politics we are hoping is not being practiced in Washington. And that, children, is the politics of the government. What do you think your politics are as it’s citizens? Or, in this house, as your mommy and daddy’s children. How might you position yourself to get these resources? What can you do to get mommy and daddy to give you what you want?”
“I can give mommy flowers before I ask her to enroll me in swim?”
“Exactly! That’s called a ‘bribe’.” She said pinching Olivia’s cheek with amusement, “That would be your politics. That’s another thing we hope is not happening in Washington. And, Jackson, how about you? What could you do to get art supplies?”
“I could get an A in Art class?”
“Very Good! You would be displaying aptitude.”
“I understand politics now, granny.”
“Well, thank you God! Now come sit in my lap and hear this story before you have to go to bed”, said grandma Yvonne pulling them close ignoring the lingering sent of gasoline.