My Dad always collects . . . well, everything. And we have just-recently and now-forever validated his pack-rat-ness because one of the gas caps from his 70-year collection just happened to fit his granddaughter’s car. But he does like to collect campaign buttons from both sides of the aisle. These were also under my bed.
First, you have to notice that nail file there. See it? That’s from my Dad’s campaign for Warren City Council — a bitter fight in that Detroit suburb. He almost got it too (Pollacks are a shoe-in in that Hamtramck-refuge). Yes, I passed those out the polling place at De LaSalle Catholic School for my dad. Anyhoo. . . .
See that goofy, 80s-fad window-bobber? That marks the shift in my family from being registered in both political parties to single partisan status. We became solely Republicans — like every other conservative Evangelical I knew.
I remember it all vividly. 1980’s GOP convention was in Detroit. I was about to turn twelve, and my family, of course, went downtown to see the glitz. It. was. glorious. I loved every second of it.
You see, I remember Jimmy Carter’s rhetorical attempt at folksiness. I remember the sweater and the fireside chats, as if trying to summon FDR’s rhetorical skill would help. I remember the malaise. Vividly. Listen to it for yourself. You’ll get what I mean. As my family and I hunkered down in that tiny 1940 farm house that my dad built for his parents back in the day — we couldn’t afford actually purchasing a home because of the double-digit interest rates — Carter sounded like we all felt.
And then Reagan! I remember the hope that Reagan stirred in us that summer at the beginning of the 80s. Wow. He was the exact opposite of the malaise. He was, for an old dude, energetic and strong. A cowboy.
All that year my sixth grade class prayed every day for the hostages in Iran. Our teacher talked with us about what they must be going through, and to be honest, it felt to me as if they must be stuck in some sort of pubescent 3:22pm limbo. I felt like a hostage about that time every day. And when Carter worked to get them released just before Reagan’s inaugural, I really felt grateful.
And so the 1980s began for me. An arcane crisis in the Middle East I could never understand. A cowboy president. Rubiks cubes and big padded shoulders. Alligators and kilt pins. A stark contrast between a grey hunkering down and a colorful, glittery showcase.