Growing Up Carter
I recall the first two times I actually looked up at the evening news- my earliest Walter Cronkite moments. One was the announcement of Elvis's death. August 16,1977- we had just returned home from the Skowhegan State Fair and turned on the television. Elvis was due in Maine the following day for a Portland concert so not only were people shocked by his death, it hit doubly hard because they expected to see a living legend in mere hours. The other clear memory was likely reported for the humor of it- that the Sex Pistols phenomena had come crashing to a halt at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on January 14th, 1978. There was a momentary glimpse of John Lydon crouched on the stage, then it cut back to a chuckling Cronkite. Years later it was far-out to discover that some of my later in life friends had attended that debacle and that one- a very young and impressionable Jane Wiedlin- drove Sid Vicious around San Francisco on his hunt for heroin.
The Carter/Ford election is my first clear recollection of the nightmare that is the United States Presidential Election. Honest to God I still only barely grasp the electoral college. I wanted Carter to win. Mom and dad liked him ok and I'd never met anyone from Georgia. He seemed exotic.
That's not the whole story. That's what I told teachers and friends but I actually wanted the Carters in the White House for a much more personal reason.
I was in love with Amy.
I loved her gigantic glasses and how she wore either bold print dresses that were clearly cut from curtains at the Von Trapp compound, or Garanimals. Amy Carter was the luckiest girl in the world! If 23,764 higher-ranking figures succumbed to Legionnaire's Disease (a very timely concern) Amy would become the president! She adored cats. Amy was THE BEST.
In second grade I wrote my adored a letter of congratulations upon her victory and I let her know that she was THE BEST. A month later the most important event of my life (up to that point and probably until I started getting my tires slashed during high school) happened: in the mail, a giant manilla envelope from the frigging White House.
Amy sent me a book. A book about Amy! And her life in The White House (which isn't nearly as big as you'd think)! Amy loved telling kids her age exactly what being First Daughter was like. She had such passion for her role as First Daughter that she went out and got herself a book deal. What couldn't Amy do? It was softcover but that was probably to get it positioned on the end cap display at Zayres.
15 years later I discovered that the "resident's tour of the White House" wasn't strictly Amy's intellectual property. Jackie Kennedy gave that dry-as-a-communion-wafer video tour but it sucked. Amy did it better.
My copy of the book and my signed letter from Amy's personal auto-pen met the same fate as 80% of the things I collected. When I headed off to college mom poured kerosene on it all and poof! I'm pretty sure I wasn't even to the highway before Mom swept the house for flammables. I get it. I'd like to throw all of my stuff away too.
Flash forward 36 years. I told this amazing and compelling and devastating story to my friend Jake Godby. Jake is all wrong in the right ways. He is a giver, usually of STDs but occasionally above-the-belt gifts. One day, a day just like any other day, a large Manila envelope arrived. Inside? No letter from Amy, sadly, but Jake made up for it. He got me a HARDCOVER copy of Amy's book. I was astonished. Something deep within in me healed.
Ya know, I think if Hillary (or The Donald, theoretically but no) wants to get America pumping- I'm not going to say "great again" because that's just so stupid- he or she just needs to do one thing. A tricky brokering of an international peace accord? Simple. Step back, put on the biggest glasses they can find, and ask "What Would Amy Do?"
Amy would never steer us wrong. Amy is THE BEST.
Footnote: Alison Arngrim, a friend to Big Gay Ice Cream and commonly known as Nellie Oleson, was known for her Amy Carter impersonation. There was an mass-distributed commercial LP of Alison's Amy routine. A more amazing testament to Amy's worth and significance would be impossible to conceive.