The Day the President Came to Dinner

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, May 22, 2008 9:43 PM

Well, I'm sure he would have-


-if he had gotten the letter.

See, I had some important things to tell Mr. Clinton back in '94 or '95 (I'm not sure - I just know it has to be some time between the 29-cent stamp and my handwriting). I snuck a stamp out of someone's purse, put it on my envelope with my very important letter, went down the hill to the mailbox, stuck it in, and raised the flag. Thirteen or fourteen years later, my grandmother finds it while cleaning the house.

This was my very important message:


It's fascinating to me now to look back and see how my little mind grasped the world. I knew the president had money, and I knew, if he really wanted to and I could show him that we weren't completely without (the penny taped to the page), he could help us out, even a little.

Bill Clinton was a bad word in my house, and I never really understood why. I had an inkling it was because he was a Democrat (though Arkansas has elected all of seven Republican governors in its history, and four were during Reconstruction). The hatred of Bill mostly came from my grandfather, who could hold grudges for very small things. Maybe Bill made one too many jokes about watermelons, or perhaps he gave the cold shoulder to one of our cousins ten times removed. For the life of me, I don't know. But it was a cornerstone in the politics of our house that, whatever you did, you didn't say, "Well, I like Bill."

I believe I was in the second grade when we held mock elections for the next president. In a combination of peer pressure and rebellious determination, I voted for Bill Clinton. I remember my face growing hot and my heart racing as I marked his name. When I went home, I told my family that I had voted for Bob Dole. Lies. All lies. Even though I had enjoyed voting for Bill, I knew I couldn't hide my dark secret forever.

One day I went up to my grandfather, my head hung low. Papa asked me what was the matter, and I finally blurted it out.

"Papa, I didn't vote for Bob Dole!"
"Why, who'd you vote for?"
"Bill Clinton! I'm sorry!"

And I remember the look on Papa's face as he sighed so deeply that his chest rose and nearly touched his chin.

"It's alright, Honey. That's what we died for."

I felt my heart sink really low, but he patted his lap, and I dutifully crawled up and laid my head on his shoulder.

I don't know why my grandfather, war veteran and farmer, hated politicians so vehemently. But that day, I realized that he had put all of that aside for me, at least for a little while.

Looking back, I'm sure beyond a doubt that my grandfather took the letter out of the mailbox. I really don't know why, but I don't think it matters anymore. It's now an artifact and a conduit that makes the memories easier to recall. I'm almost positive that's not what he had in mind when he took out of the mailbox (and read it, no less). Whatever reason he had, I'm glad he did so.

Besides, it's not like Bill would have come down for supper anyway.

1 Response to "The Day the President Came to Dinner"

Monda Says:

He should've shown up. That was an earnest letter and it DID include a little money.

The moment your grandfather came to terms with your choice - perfect.

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