Conversation was limited in our family. “How was your day?” or “How was school?” were never uttered. No need. My twin sister and I bubbled over the minute we stepped inside our modest home after school. We blurted out everything to Mama in the kitchen. We talked between bites of fresh homemade cookies while she began preparations for the evening meal.
My parents talked during meals, usually things they’d heard about town or at church. Papa expected the twins to be silent except for an occasional “May I have another roll?” or “Please pass the butter.”
There was no political talk in our home. My father, born five years after Herbert Hoover, was a Republican and Mama was uncommitted. All that changed the year Noah*, my newest and most handsome brother-in-law, took an interest in politics, but his wife wasn’t quite old enough to vote. When they visited us, the ladies usually separated from the men—women and girls in the kitchen, men in the living room. That evening, we all settled into the living room like we sometimes did when listening to the Chuck Wagon Gang or the Carter family singing on the radio. But the radio was silent.
Noah ignored Papa and directed his question toward Mama. It zinged like an arrow shot from a fully-stretched bow. “Misses Carr,” he said with heavy “z” emphasis on the misspoken Misses. “Who are you voting for?”
Mama pushed the old rocker back and forth a couple of times with her feet resting on the fresh-waxed linoleum before she answered. “I don’t vote,” she said.
“You have to vote,” Noah said, “so others don’t elect the wrong candidates.”
“I don’t know any of them gov’ment people,” Mama said. “What if I put in the wrong man and he does bad things?”
Papa harrumphed his “I told you so.” Noah had no comeback.
On Election Day while Papa was at a fall gardening job a few block away, Noah came to take Mama to the polls. “I signed up to vote because you talked me into it,” she said, “but I still don’t know one of them men from the other. Besides, I never voted before, so I don’t know how. You’ll have to show me.”
When Mama returned, I asked how her first attempt at voting went.
“Oh, it was easy,” she said. “I couldn’t read them big words so Noah showed me which places to mark.”
*Noah is a fictitious name substituted to protect the guilty.