BALANCING ACT:   Candidates should laugh like Jean

Staff writer

Election day brings good childhood memories for me … and topping the list is the laughter of certain special lady I only knew as Jean. Whenever election times nears and I hear about candidates wanting to do this or that, or promising change or the moon, I often think, if they only knew how to laugh like Jean, they would make a much more positive impression on people they wanted to vote for them.

I grew up in a home where township voting took place every two or four years. I guess it influenced my sister and I more than we ever realized.

We lived along K-15 highway in Menno Township, and if it was an election year, our garage went through a whirlwind cleaning job the day before the big day. Then, and I never really knew why, our garage became grand central station for voters in our precinct. Election day meant people were in our garage before we got up, and they did not leave until after we went to bed. It was fascinating to have all those people coming and going all day long.

I remember waking up to the smell of coffee wafting out of the garage and hearing Jean Schmidt laughing and visiting. I would sit out of sight on the stairs of our back porch, listening to the people as they came in and out of our garage. There were some quiet moments, when all I could here was the click of a pencil on a voting board, or footsteps and the swish of a booth curtain. Mostly however, there was always something going on if Jean was volunteering.

I did not really know Jean, after all, I was just one of those kids who were supposed to be not seen and not heard, but I could recognize her laugh anywhere. Jean had a great laugh, one of those contagious sounds that made everyone within hearing distance giggle along or at least smile, even if they had no idea what she was talking about.

Of course, the best thing about having an election take place in my very own garage was sneaking in when no one was watching and trying to see what was in those cloth booths. I was fascinated, and pretty good about sneaking around the garage to get a peek inside those booths.

Of course, it was more fun if Jean caught me than my own mom, and I often went giggling back in a hurry to my listening perch on the back porch steps.

I don’t remember much about candidates or issues voted on, but I remember Jean, and what a fun person she was, even though I did not really know her. It is funny how I think of her every election day. She was a local dairy farmer’s wife, but she should have run for office. She would have made a great political leader as she had an opinion about everything, and a witty, humorous way of getting her point across without offense.

When I voted on Tuesday, I was delighted to see my sister behind the volunteer polling table. When I asked why she was there, she said she had such fond memories about the voting that took place in our own garage years ago that she just had to get involved. And before I even asked her, she asked me if I remembered Jean. I bet a lot of other people remember Jean too.

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