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Sam and Chris
"We need to shop for birthday presents," Chris added. "Any thoughts on the subject?"
"How about a pony?" I suggested.
"You are kidding, right?" Chris asked with a somewhat shocked look on his face.
"Not really," I said. "We could build a small stable in the back yard. Donny could ride the pony around the neighborhood. He could ride the pony to and from school every day. We wouldn't need to pick him up and drop him off."
"Stop it, Sam," Chris said as he smiled back. "Don't give me any ideas! You won't let me have a jet, yet you are willing to let Donny have a pony."
"I suspect the pony will cost less than a jet," I replied. "Don't you think?"
"A jet will be more useful," Chris replied.
"But we can't park a jet in our back yard," I added.
"I don't believe we could park a pony in the back yard either," Chris continued. "The zoning department would have kittens—pardon the pun—if we tried."
Chapter 63: Birthday Party and Presidential Campaign
Chris and I looked around the still empty living area prior to Donny's birthday party.
"At least we have photographs to remember what this part of the house looked like before the onslaught of Donny's class members," Chris said with a smile.
"We will probably just need to clean up the rubbish and it will look exactly like this," I assured him.
"Maybe yes, maybe no," Chris said as he continued looking around the room. "I don't know if I have ever had first-hand experience with twelve, four-year-old kids in one room. So, I am guessing we will have a few casualties."
"Let's just hope it is things and not people," I replied as the doorbell rang announcing our first guests.
Chris and I opened the door. Luke, Sean, Sawyer, Glen, Tom, and Harrison stood outside. "We must be early. We didn't hear any loud screaming coming from Donny's classmates," Sawyer explained.
"Right on time, actually," Chris said as we ushered the group inside. As he gave a joint hug to Luke and Sean, he continued, "How is Northwestern treating you?"
"Too early to tell," Sean replied. "We have most of the boxes unpacked, and I have found the pathway to my classes. And, Sean starts a new job in two weeks."
"What kind of job?" I asked.
"I'm an assistant to the director of alumni affairs at Loyola," Luke announced proudly. "I am still amazed they offered me the job."
"It was my good looks," Sean replied. "Now, where is the birthday boy and birthday dog? Holy shit! This house is fucking amazing!"
"You haven't seen it before!" I replied. "I had forgotten you weren't here for the house warming."
"We will want the tour after the gathering," Luke said.
"You might want a tour BEFORE the party begins," Chris replied. "It might not be repairable after the party. We invited all of Donny's classmates to the party."
"Chris has convinced himself we will need to begin renovating the house after Donny's classmates destroy the entire downstairs," I warned Luke.
Donny, followed by five dogs and one cat, stormed downstairs from his bedroom, "Uncle Luke! Uncle Sean!"
Donny leaped into Luke's arms and then squirmed into the awaiting arms of Sean. "You gotta meet Matilda! She's the cat."
"Cat?" Sean looked at Chris and me. "You have a cat? Were three boys and five dogs not enough? You're more masochistic than I thought!"
"She just arrived," Chris explained. "It's the way our lives have been evolving lately. I'll give you a brief tour."
As Chris, Luke, and Sean disappeared for their tour, Daniel and Tony arrived with Jay in tow. Donny and Jay disappeared in a flash of boy feet, dog feet, and cat feet.
"They are quick," I added. "How are you guys doing these days?"
"Surviving," Daniel replied. "It has been a bit hectic with us... I can't imagine how you survive with all three kids and all five dogs."
"And a cat, Matilda," I added.
"A cat?" Tony asked. "What on earth are you doing with a cat?"
"She showed up undernourished and scared in our back yard," I explained. "After a trip to the vet, we brought her home and she became part of the family."
"Jay has been badgering us for a dog," Tony said. "Let's hope he doesn't start with the cat, too! I'm not a cat person. I'm not a person who likes dog or cat hair all over the house. However, I suspect Jay will win, and we will have a hairy dog."
"It's inevitable," I agreed. "Donny usually wins all of the pet battles. Mathew and Joshua didn't even know they were getting a dog. Now, they are lost without Winthrop and Wallaby. While we have a moment of silence, how about a drink?"
"Perfect!" Daniel said as we headed toward the bar.
Once all of our guests had arrived and Tom and Harrison had corralled all of Donny's classmates in the downstairs rec room, Chris and I stood back and watched the action of our guests.
"At least all of our friends and all of our family get along together," Chris added. "It is magic in some ways."
"Yup," I replied. "When I talked with Professor Tonnessen and his husband, Taegu, I had an epiphany."
"Did God or Mabel speak to you?" Chris asked with a smile.
"Aren't they one in the same?" I asked. I did not wait for Chris's response, but continued, "I thought we should talk to Taegu about the house in Florida."
"Great idea," Chris responded. "He seems to like this house. Maybe he could work magic in Florida."
"I wonder how Tom and Harrison are doing in the lions' den." I asked.
"We should go check on them to see if the kids have tied them up and are torturing them," Chris suggested.
"Good idea," I responded as we made our way downstairs to our downstairs. When we arrived, we were surprised to see Tom and Harrison both on the floor sitting in a circle with the kids. They were playing a game. And, the kids were paying attention to Tom and Harrison.
Tom and Harrison looked up to see us. "So, are we in time for ice cream and cake?"
"Yes," I replied. "It looks as though you are all having fun, right kids?"
"Yes!" the kids said in unison.
"Uncle Tom and Uncle Harrison have been playing games with us," Donny replied.
"Then, why don't we give Uncle Harrison and Uncle Tom a break and get the ice cream and cake going?" Chris suggested.
Suddenly, twelve four- and five-year-old kids were dashing up the stairs followed by five dogs and one cat. I turned to Harrison and Tom, "So, you have survived!"
"It was fun," Harrison replied. "It kept my mind off the bottle of vodka upstairs."
"So, you are ready to be a parent now, right?" I asked.
"Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves," Tom replied. "We still need to practice our parenting skills."
"Practice?" I asked. "PRACTICE? We didn't have time to practice. All of a sudden, without warning, we had a three-year-old son. We didn't break him. You will do fine!"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Harrison began. "However, Tom and I will need to take a rain check on becoming parents until we have a few other issues taken care of. Now, I could use a little cake and ice cream."
The sounds of hammering reverberated from our garage into the quietness of our television room where I was studying. The sounds startled me out of deep thought. I decided to explore.
When I walked into our garage, I saw Chris wielding a hammer and taking his frustrations out on a couple of pieces of wood.
"What the fuck are you trying to do, Chris?" I almost yelled. "You are likely to cause the police to arrive and question your sanity!"
"Sorry about the noise," Chris replied. "I found some lumber left over from the house renovation and decided to build something."
"Build something?" I asked still almost screaming at my sweaty husband. "I've never seen you even pick up a hammer let alone try to build something. What is it you are building?"
"I don't know yet," Chris said as he paused driving nails into the wood. "I'm letting my creative juices flow! As I listened to myself hammering, an idea for a new percussion based musical score is taking shape."
"I can see it now, `Concerto for Hammer and Nail,'" I said.
"In the meantime," Chris continued. "Whatever it is I am building, I will paint it yellow and put it in the front lawn. Lawn sculpture is very popular now."
"Oh! God!" I scream. "I'm married to the next John Kearney."
"But, he did his sculptures from Chrome car bumpers!" Chris exclaimed. "I would need to switch to plastic car bumpers to compete. Not very appealing!"
"Maybe John Kearney has some surplus chrome car bumpers he would let you have," I suggested. "And besides, why yellow?"
"Eye catching," Chris replied. "I may do another one in red."
"When you are finished playing with your hammer and nails maybe we can discuss dinner," I said as I turned and went back into the television room. All five dogs looked at me as I came through the door. "Your Daddy Chris has just gone off the deep end, boys. He's building a lawn sculpture. Maybe we could put one of the pieces in the back yard so you could use it as a toilet. Now, I need to attempt to study—even with all of the racket Daddy Chris is making."
Lincoln and Roosevelt led the way in front of the sofa where I parked myself. The other three dogs followed. They kept looking at the door leading to the garage and then back at me. I think they were worried our family was falling apart.
"Don't worry guys," I said to the dogs. "Daddy Chris will come to his senses sooner or later... I hope it is sooner because I can't hear myself think!"
Chris continued to work on his lawn sculpture every chance he could. I usually took the boys and the dogs on a long walk during his creative time. After a few weeks, he was ready to reveal his sculpture.
"Behold!" Chris bellowed as he removed the covering from the sculpture. "It's called My Family."
"Hmmm...," I responded. And, yes, I was stalling to find the right words. "It is interesting... Why don't you tell me about the symbolism attached to the sculpture?"
"The two tallest blocks represent you and me," Chris explained. "Donny is between us and he is holding one of my hands and one of yours. You and I each have a twin in our arms. I haven't decided which one is which... they both look alike. Lincoln, Roosevelt, Simon, Winthrop, and Wallaby are in front and connected to us by their leashes. Matilda is bringing up the rear."
"Clever, Chris," I said. "And, we are yellow! All of us are yellow."
"I could change the colors if you like," Chris said.
"No," I added. "Yellow is good. It's bright and energetic. You should send a photo to your grandmother. She could give you a professional critique."
Chris dug out his phone, snapped a photo of his creation and sent it off to his grandmother.
"Where are we going to place this work of art?" I asked.
"Back yard?" Chris asked.
"No," I replied. "How about the front of the house. Everyone will see it as they walk by the house. You could get famous!"
Chris's phone began to chime with Chris's grandmother's ringtone. "Hello, grandma!" Chris said as he put the phone on speaker.
"Chris!" Chris's grandmother exclaimed. "I love your sculpture. It's your family, isn't it?"
"How did you know?" Chris asked.
"Count the pieces," Chris's grandmother explained. "You and Sam are the tall rectangles, five dogs, twin boys in your arms, Donny between you, and the cat is in the back where cats often are found."
"You are very perceptive," Chris replied. "Sam has decided we are going to put it in the front lawn."
Chris and his grandmother continued to talk as I went inside to check on the twins and Donny. I found Donny curled up asleep on the television room floor with Simon next to him. Matilda was resting nearly on top of Simon.
I continued up the stairs to the twin's room. They were not asleep. They were both awake and kicking their little feet and cooing to one another.
"So, boys," I said quietly. "How are you doing?"
I made certain they didn't need changing, picked up both boys, and headed downstairs. It was bottle time even though they hadn't announced it.
"Chris!" I shouted from the kitchen. "Grab a twin. It's feeding time."
"I'll be right there," Chris replied from the television room.
I handed Joshua to Chris as soon as he stepped into the kitchen. As I proceeded to get the bottles ready, we continued our conversation in the garage, "So, Chris. Do you think you have found another career path?"
"I don't believe I am going to build lawn sculptures as a full-time profession," Chris replied with a smile. "I am more suited to pursuing music rather than using a hammer and nails. Besides, I might break something with all of the physical activity of hammering."
"Not to mention the noise levels around the house," I added.
"That too," Chris replied.
"Sam, I'm home," Chris loudly proclaimed as he entered the house.
"I'm in the kitchen," I replied. I had my laptop on the island counter. Papers covered most of the island's top.
"Judging from the amount of papers on top of the island, you must be working on some serious project," Chris said as he kissed me.
"I am attempting to figure out a project for visualizing big data," I explained. "So far, I am having difficulty trying to visualize what I am supposed to be visualizing. At this point, I am considering having ONE PowerPoint slide telling my audience we collect way too much data on people. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience complete the project on the basis of my right to privacy."
"How do you think your professor would react?" Chris asked with a smile.
"Probably not well," I continued. "He lives and breathes this shit. I am pretty certain he has no social life. So, I'm thinking maybe we should round up the boys, the dogs, and the cat and go for a long walk."
"Great idea!" Chris enthused. "Where is everyone?"
"Mathew and Joshua are sleeping in the television room," I explained. "Donny is in his room playing with Simon and Matilda. Winthrop and Wallaby are with Mathew and Joshua. Lincoln and Roosevelt are somewhere doing whatever it is those two do."
Chris immediately released one of his very loud whistles. Donny, Simon, and Matilda raced down the stairs. Winthrop and Wallaby appeared beside us near the island. Lincoln and Roosevelt sauntered out of the kitchen pantry. As Donny leaped into Chris's arms, the five dogs sat and started to sweep their tales across the floor.
"I'll get Mathew and Joshua," I offered. When I returned with both of the twins, Donny was sitting on the island while Chris attempted to put the leashes on the dogs. Matilda landed on the window seat in the sun. She wasn't going with us. I could tell by her look she wasn't into going on any walk—way too much effort on her part. I put Mathew and Joshua in their stroller and tucked them in. Finally, we were ready for our walk.
"See you later, Matilda," I said as we made our way out the front door.
As we began our walk, Chris made an observation, "I think Matilda is getting heavier."
"You mean we have an obese cat?" I asked.
"Yup," Chris replied. "She needs to change her eating habits. She likes to eat and then take a nap. Then, she will eat again and lay in the sun and purr. I am thinking we need to get a mouse for her to chase."
"A mouse?" I asked. "You mean as in a real mouse?"
"It's a thought," Chris explained. "Matilda can hardly burn off calories chasing a fake mouse."
"I somehow don't believe I want a real mouse running around in our house," I countered. "Wouldn't it be easier if we bought a leash for Matilda and made her go for walks with us?"
"Having a mouse to chase would give her a purpose in her life," Chris said.
"Not going to happen, Chris," I said sternly. "End of mouse conversation!"
"Can we get ice cream, Daddy?" Donny asked Chris.
"Sam?" Chris asked.
"We have an obese cat and you want to get our son ice cream before we make him dinner?" I asked.
"I guess not," Chris replied with a smile on his face. "We should probably skip ice cream on this walk because you might not want to eat your dinner, Donny."
"Can I have some after we have dinner tonight?" Donny asked.
"Maybe," I replied.
"Daddy," Donny continued. "Can I get a bicycle?"
"It's possible," I replied.
"What color do you want, Donny?" Chris asked.
"Red," Donny emphatically stated. "Can Simon go with me when I ride my bike?"
"Probably not until you are a little older," Chris replied. "Simon weights as much, if not more, than you."
"Okay," Donny replied. "He can walk beside me then."
"Maybe we should all get bicycles," I suggested. "I could put either Mathew or Joshua behind me, and you, Chris, could have the other behind you.
"Might be fun," Chris agreed. "We should think this through before we spend a fortune on bikes for the family."
"Probably," I agreed.
I sat at a table outside the student union. I enjoyed the people watching experience while I contemplated my big data visualization project. My phone began to ring.
"Hello, this is Sam," I said.
"May I please speak with Sam Williamson?" a woman's voice said.
"This is he," I replied.
"Mr. Williamson," the woman continued. "I'm Gloria Rodriguez. You don't know me, but I am the executive director of Green Star Peace Initiative headquartered in Washington, DC. A colleague of mine, Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc, gave me your name. He suggested you might be able to assist with a project I am working on."
"How can I be of assistance?" I asked.
"Green Star Peace Initiative offers relocation assistance to gay and lesbian individuals in certain countries which have a history of civil rights violations," Ms. Rodriquez explained. "And, we are hoping to attract support from individuals and organizations sympathetic to issues of the LGBT community. As a founder of HomeFront and your support of other causes within the gay and lesbian communities in your state, we hoped we could count on you to help publicize our cause."
"What kind of publicity are you looking to attract?" I asked.
"We hope to organize people who could speak to local community groups as well as help with national publicity efforts, such as a major press conference we anticipate organizing in February of next year," Ms. Rodriguez suggested. "I can send you an e-mail with links to our website and other material for you to review. Once you have an opportunity to review the material, I hope we can talk again to gage your reaction to our initiative."
"I will be happy to review the material," I explained. "However, I should warn you I am a junior in college and have limited time. My husband and I have three kids who vie for our attention."
"I understand your position," Ms. Rodriguez replied. "I hope you and your husband could look over the material. If you can afford to spend some of your valuable time on our project, we would be forever grateful."
"We will look over your material and determine where we could help you," I replied. "I promise I will call you next week with our thoughts on the subject of Green Star Peace Initiative."
"Thank you Mr. Williamson," Ms. Rodriguez replied. "I will look forward to hearing from you."
I ended the call and looked at my watch. Class in 15 minutes.
I sat at the kitchen island after my last class. Instead of reviewing my big data visualization project, I decided to look at the Green Star Peace Initiative information. I moved from appalled to angry in a few short minutes. The stories about the atrocities against gay and lesbian people in some countries really pissed me off.
I was lost in thought when I heard Chris entering the house, "Sam, I'm home!"
"I'm in the kitchen," I yelled back.
Chris managed to arrive in the kitchen before Donny, the dogs, and Matilda scrambled around us. Donny launched himself into Chris's arms.
"So, someone is glad to see me," Chris said as he sat Donny on the top of the kitchen island.
"We all are glad to see you, Chris," I added. "How was your day?"
"Uneventful," Chris replied. "Yours?"
"Interesting you should ask," I began. "Have you ever heard of Green Star Peace Initiative?"
"Ah...," Chris replied. "Human rights violations for the gay and lesbian community in various countries around the world?"
"Very good, Chris!" I continued. "Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc passed my name along to the executive director of Green Star Peace Initiative, Gloria Rodriguez. She hopes to elicit our support for the initiative."
"What kind of support?" Chris asked.
"Speaking to local groups around the state, national press conference in Washington, DC in February," I explained. "I suspect she might even be interested in financial support from the foundation, but she didn't ask for financial support."
"And, what is your initial reaction?" Chris asked. "Wait! Let me guess! Are you at the anger stage yet?"
"Yup," I replied.
"What plan have you hatched?" Chris asked.
"Why do you think I am hatching a plan?" I asked.
"Sam," Chris explained. "I know you. We leaped into the HomeFront project because you read a column in the Chicago Tribune. You helped Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc with various causes in your hometown, including securing the services of Devon Wright for the Lost Sheep foundation. If there is any cause who works with kids, dogs, or other underdog community, you will be in the forefront of the fight. Am I not correct, Sam?"
"Sadly you are correct," I replied. "What are your thoughts?"
"I believe, Sam," Chris began his explanation. "You should have been a political science major instead of a computer science geek."
"I have no desire to be a politician, Chris," I said. "I like the behind the scenes role."
"Like the press conference to announce the formation of HomeFront," Chris explained with a smile.
"Worst day of my life!" I said.
"But," Chris continued. "You did a fantastic job. You are a natural at events like the one in Chicago."
"I'm not going there again, Chris," I insisted. "Now, how was your day?"
"Good," Chris replied. "I have almost finished my project for the composition course. I will preview it for you once I am a little further along."
"Terrific!" I enthused. "I can't wait to hear it."
"Where are the little ones?" Chris asked.
"Mathew and Joshua are asleep and accompanied by Winthrop and Wallaby," I explained. "Donny is napping with Simon and Matilda in the television room. Lincoln and Roosevelt have been romping about. I hope they stay out of trouble. Did you ever notice they sometimes conspire against the rest of the family?"
"I think you are paranoid, Sam," Chris replied.
"They have a track record for being mysterious," I added. "Now, how would you like to go on a stroll with the kids, the dogs, and the cat?"
"Let's go!" Chris agreed.
Chris and I gathered at the pasta place following our workout with the gym gang. Chris and I recounted the possibility of him and me working for the Green Star Peace Initiative.
"You're doing what?" Sawyer asked with an astonished tone of voice.
"We are getting involved in the peace initiative to help the LGBTcommunity in various countries," Chris explained.
"As if you don't have enough to keep you busy," Tom said. "You are on the board of directors for HomeFront and the Washington Family Foundation. You, Sam, are finishing your undergrad degree, and you, Chris, have just started your Masters. You have three kids, five dogs, one cat, and a house to take care of. The next thing we hear is you are running for Congress."
"I did mention to Sam he should switch to a political science major," Chris added.
"You aren't serious about running for Congress are you, Sam?" Harrison asked.
"I never really thought about it until Chris mentioned it the other day," I admitted. "But, even if I decide to run, I will need to be 25 before I can run for Congress."
"Only five years away, Sam," Glen continued. "It's time to start planning your political stance. You need to get your philosophy sorted out and begin to talk about how you will be able to make a difference in the world. It's never too early to start forming your campaign committee."
"I am not even thinking about running for Congress right now," I said to the group. "Besides, Chris would be a more effective Congress person."
"Why me?" Chris asked.
"You are more outgoing," I replied.
"Sam," Sawyer quickly added. "It's not like you are some shrinking violet! You are a very outgoing kind of guy!"
"Thanks for the compliment, Sawyer," I said. "I will let you know if I have any thoughts about running for Congress."
"President," Harrison added. "You could be President of the United States some day! And we will all be able to say we knew you in college. We will be celebrities. We can write best-seller books about the guy we knew in college who became President. We will be worth a fortune!"
"Calm down, Harrison," Tom said before he turned his attention to the group. "He's been like this ever since he gave up the vodka. He overthinks things."
"Better than not thinking about things," Sawyer said. "At least he's sober!"
"Yea," Harrison said to Tom. "See! I'm making positive moves. I'd better start writing tomorrow before I forget all of the happy times we've had in college! I could even write about some of the skeletons my family has buried."
"I don't believe your family will be supportive if you start writing about all of the family secrets," Tom replied.
"He takes all of the fun out of my ideas," Harrison said as he leaned over and kissed Harrison on the cheek. "Promise us you will hire Glen, Tom, and me to do your website for your campaign."
"A little premature," I said. "But, if we get to the point of a campaign, you will definitely have the job. Besides, the family secrets could be more fun to read than my running for President!"
To be continued...
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