The Year of the Red Jelly Bean

Dancing in her new Rainbow Tutu

I feel as though the world is a better place, today.

The title of this post comes from something Vivian said, the day after the U.S. Election Day back in November. My mother-in-law was in town, and she had been working on the Obama campaign in Iowa way back in January, when Obama made his first stunning primary victory. We’ve sort of caught her enthusiasm about the president-elect (now president), and had been rooting for him pretty consistently throughout the year as he went through the primaries, and then faced off against John McCain. We stayed up late on Election Night, hitting refresh on our browsers again and again, waiting as the results came in, going up-to-the-minute for the vote counts in Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana, and there was an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness when the networks called the election for Obama at 11:00 p.m. EST.

That Wednesday, the sun was shining, and Erin had just gotten news from her agent about the interest major publishers were showing about her young adult fantasy novel, Plain Kate. The euphoria over Obama’s win still fresh, the anticipation that our writing careers were about to take a dramatic turn, had us almost giddy. And Vivian, who we thought was awfully young to understand these things, asked us why we were so happy. “It’s a better world today,” Erin said. “A good man is president and we might be able to have the things we want out of life.”

To which Vivian replied, “can all my jelly beans be red?”

This blissful metaphor was solidified when, later that afternoon, came news of Arthur A. Levine’s six-figure offer for Plain Kate and a second book to be determined later. One of Erin’s friends, hearing the news and the story, dropped off a box filled with red jelly beans for Vivian.

Of course, we keep on having to remind ourselves that it isn’t going to be that easy, for anybody. Obama takes power during turbulent economic times, on the heels of an administration that decimated the nation’s finances. He is also running against the expectations people have of him, and many are sure to become disillusioned when the realities of governing a nation as big and as complex as the United States kick in.

But all that being said, I remain hopeful. Obama has gathered a team that seems to value competence over personal loyalty. He seems a president who will not name as head of FEMA a personal friend whose previous experience of management included the International Arabian Horse Association, and his first steps at economic stimulus appear designed to address the other problems (infrastructure deficit, medicare, et cetera) that have plagued the United States for far too long. He may not match the expectations people have of him, but comparing him to what happened to the country the eight years previous, I suspect America might just get along fine.

Likewise, although Erin and I are about to embark on a career that is a lot less stable than we would like, Erin is about to embark on a career that she loves and that she is good at. And for this we are immensely grateful. I’m sure there will be pitfalls along the way but, hey, we got this far. And I think we’re going to go farther.

The year of the red jelly bean? Maybe. For Vivian’s sake, I’ll gladly eat the green ones. They’re my favourite in any event.

Wish us luck.

The Plot of the Empire Strikes Back, as Retold by Vivian

According to Erin, Vivian recounted it thus:

“These are the good guys. Those are the bad guys. The good guys are hiding. The bad guys have walkers but the good guys can fly! They trip the walkers! The walkers fall down! The good guys win! Hurray!!!!”

Yes, it’s true. While staying at a hotel in downtown Ottawa over the weekend, having brought Vivian with me for the trip, I notice that Spike TV is running a Star Wars marathon. Vivian doesn’t usually like action movies, or even any movie with a serious plot. She freaked out at Ratatoille during the scene where the poor rat runs around the kitchen, narrowly avoiding the knives, boots and gas jets that are the usual hazards to a rodent visitor at such a kitchen. I didn’t think Vivian would particularly care for one of the mothers of all action flicks — particularly the dark one of the original trilogy.

But my parents took me to see Star Wars when I was five, and one of the most powerful of my earliest movie memories is that of the Imperial Walkers stomping their way across the snowfields in The Empire Strikes Back. I wanted to share that with Vivian, so I cuddled her close and we watched the movie together. And, of course, I had to provide the running commentary.

So, the “these are the good guys, and these are the bad guys” largely came from me, but she was able to figure out what was going on with only a few cues from me, and didn’t seem too bothered by laser fire. Even the walkers got a pass, although she got very nervous when Luke’s ship crashed just short of one, and we could see its feet stomping towards our hero. That required a closer cuddle and an assurance that Luke would be all right.

She managed to last until the rebels escaped from their hideout, and only begged off when we got to Yoda’s world. I’m guessing that Yoda looked just too weird for her liking, and the fact that he lived in a dark swamp forest rather than a bright icy plane was too much for her. Which was fine with me, because it was getting late, and I didn’t want to have to explain the torture of Han Solo that was going to come up later.

On the way back home, she managed to get through about fifteen minutes of Monster’s Inc on my iPod, but bailed during the first monster-scares-kid-in-bed scene.

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