Cece propped her chin on her palm, her elbow resting comfortably on the end of the couch, ignoring her brothers’ antics below her. Her schoolwork was scattered out in front of her on the coffee table, and as it was closing in on almost noon time, she was starting to feel hungry. She lazily flipped through the channels on the television and stopped at CNN. It was without intent. Cecelia Marie Halpert certainly had no interest in the news, especially since all that she usually heard when her parents watched was about the scary sickness which was the reason they had to wear masks, or about ‘getting the giant orange cheeto out of office’ (she’d heard that one from her Mom multiple times.
Today though, she paused, setting the remote down next to her, and watched as a woman, who she found strikingly beautiful, and dressed so immaculately crossed the giant stage lit up by lights. She listened as she spoke, addressing ‘America’ and how ‘We’d won’ and Cecelia cocked her head to the side in confusion. She turned around to face her father who was already watching her intently and quietly.
Before she could ask anything, Jim piped up, pulling his dark framed glasses off his face,
“Do you know who that lady is?” he asked her, leaning back in his desk chair at the dining room table, placing his hands behind his head, linking fingers..
She shook her head fiercely. Philip looked up briefly to see if the television interested him, and when it didn’t, he went back to making explosive noises on the floor as cars rammed their front ends into each other.
“That’s Kamala Harris,” he paused, taking a sip of water, “She’s going to be the first female Vice President,” finishing, he stood up from his makeshift workstation and moved to the living room, plopping down on the couch next to her.
“She’s pretty,” Cece said, her eyes moving back to the television, “She reminds me a little of Mommy’s friend Kelly, Kelly wears clothes just like that”
“Yeah,” Jim stifled a laugh with a cough into a closed fist, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth, “She might be a little…smarter than Mommy’s friend Kelly, but you’re right, she is very pretty. But you know what’s even more important?” he asked her, looping an arm around her shoulder.
“We’ve never had a woman or a woman of color as Vice President before, that’s a huge deal,” his eyes widened at her, and glanced at the television as fireworks went off in the background of the previous weekends’ news coverage.
“Why not?” She asked with such innocence, he sighed, always thinking before speaking to his ever so impressionable eleven year old.
He moved his body to face hers on the couch, dipping a crossed leg under its match, and furrowing his eyes a bit.
“Honey,” she was so much her mother. Her beautiful curls, those big green eyes staring back at him, still freckled and tan from the summer sun that had long since disappeared, how would he explain years of systemic oppression to his child?
“Women in this country, and frankly, everywhere, haven’t been able to do the same things that men have since pretty much the beginning of time.” She stared at him blankly, as he continued,
“Do you remember back in third grade, when we had to go talk to your teacher at the beginning of the school year because she made all the girls sit in the back of your classroom?” She nodded, her eyebrows furrowing in frustration.
“That was so stupid, Dad, she said, even when I asked, and asked, and asked to move to the front so I could see better, that the boys had to sit in the front, and girls in the back,”
“I know,” he nodded, “and you did the right thing by telling your teacher that it wasn’t fair, and telling me and your Mom it wasn’t fair,”
“Yeah but then you went and gave her that scary Dad look you give me when I mouth off to you,” she giggled, “and Mrs. Conners just shut right up and let us sit wherever we wanted after that,” she looked at her father proudly.
Jim laughed, “Yeah, I may have made her a little scared, but the point is, Mrs. Conners didn’t understand that keeping boys in the front or girls in the back, is sexism, and that boys and girls, and even kids who don’t identify as either should be allowed to sit anywhere in the room.”
She moved closer to him, resting an arm on his leg, and her head on his chest, staring at the television which was now muted.
“Did someone tell Kamala she couldn’t sit in the front of her classroom too?” she asked, turning her head back around.
“Maybe,” Jim rubbed his hand through her hair, “but, it was probably really difficult for her to have her voice heard as she was growing up,” he tapped her on the shoulder so she’d turn around,
“Mom and I won’t always be able to fix situations that happen in your life like what happened with Mrs. Conners,” she glanced down at her hands, looking slightly disappointed, maybe nervous, “but you know what?”
She shook her head,
“You are such a brave little girl. You know exactly what it is that you want,” he tipped his head down toward hers, touching her forehead. “You’re my little firecracker,” his eyes gleamed as she softly smiled at him. He kissed her forehead,
“You bugged your coach to let you pitch for weeks in softball, and now what are you doing?” his voice raising,
“Pitching,” she responded with a knowing grin,
“And when you and Maylee got into a fight at school last year, and she pushed you, did you push her back?”
“No,” she bit her lip,
“Right, because you knew to tell Maylee it wasn’t kind what she did, and you told an adult what happened. Sweetheart, you are so responsible, and so full of love and care, and when you get older, these things are still going to happen,”
“Because not everyone is nice,” he turned his head, his lips pursing a bit, “but we can control how we act, right? When we get upset about something, we try really hard not to raise our voices here at home,”
Philip sat up from his stomach, suddenly intrigued,
“Daddy you yell all the time when your tools fall on your foot,”
Jim laughed out loud, “You’re right, and I shouldn’t do that, Phil. But I try really hard not to raise my voice when I’m frustrated with you, or your sister, or Mommy,”
“You don’t get flusterated with Mommy,” Phil was great at making up words.
Jim smirked, “No, not very often,” he looked at both his kids, feeling so much pride building up in how aware they were, how much they understood at such a young age.
“My point is, you can do that too, Cece,” he pointed at the television. “You can be President, or an engineer, or anything you want, it doesn’t matter how many girls like you are pursuing that too, you can absolutely do it,” She looked thoughtful at the television, so many people were cheering and smiling, she couldn’t help but wish she had a beautiful white suit just like that and crossing a stage with so much pride.
After a moment or two in silence, she looked up at her father with admiration, “Daddy, do you remember when you said you used to be realllllly lazy about your job? And then you met Mommy, and you tried harder?”
He rolled his eyes and internally scolded himself for telling his daughter he was lazy, but being truthful with his children was something he valued in his parenting style.
“Yes, I remember,” he wasn’t sure where this was going.
“I’m going to try and not be so lazy with school,” she stuck the side of her thumb into her mouth and bit on her nail, “because,” she spit a nail out, and he glared at her for a moment until she picked it up off her lap, “I want to be like her, but I want to be President someday,”
He smiled at her, pulling her frame toward his own, as she sunk into the corner of the couch, and into the crook of his arm.
“I’m gonna be President!” Philip piped in from the floor, another car lost under a chair,
“Me first, because I’m older than you,” she snuck a tongue between her teeth at her brother.
He rolled his eyes, and grabbed some coloring books in his vicinity,
“You both can be President, or anything you want,”
“I want to be a firefighter,”
“I thought you wanted to be President?” Jim turned to his son,
“I changed my mind, that’s boring, I want to wear a fire hat, and drive the truck,”
Jim shook his head and moved back to the table,
“Do you want me to put the Disney channel on?” he asked, Cece, remote in hand.
“Nah, I’m good,” her lips smirked, and her chin rested in her hand once more.
Pam pushed through the door, rolls of paper in her hand, and a purse in the other. Jim turned from the kitchen, and moved to the front door,
“Let me help,” he grabbed her bag, and coat, and hung them up in the mudroom so she could set her newest pieces down on the kitchen table. She pulled him close to her by his collar and kissed him, a palm on his cheek.
“Hi,” she pulled away smiling at him,
He took her hands and pressed a kiss into them, the cold november air chilled on her fingers. “You’re freezing” he pulled her into him, and wrapped his arms around Pam, closing the space in between them.
“Whatever you’re making smells amazing,” she moved with him to the kitchen, noticing Cece at the stove, stirring something in a pot, and Philip setting plates on the table.
“What is this?” she asked in surprise, both of the kids turning around, Cece dropping the spoon on the counter and running to her mother, her brother in tow.
“Mom! Guess what?” Daddy and I did school today, and then we talked about how I’m gonna be President of the United States someday, and that I’ll be President before Phil because he’s a baby,” he pushed his sister, “okay, fine, you’re not a baby, but I’ll still be President first because I’m older, and then” she drew in a large breath, “Dad said I could make dinner because I was so responsible, so, I made you tomato soup and Daddy made grilled cheeses and everything is delicious!” she gave her a toothy smile.
Pam looked up at Jim, her eyes softening, “You had an eventful day today,” she raised an eyebrow in suspicion.
“Well, your daughter saw Kamala Harris on TV today, and we talked about how that was a pretty big deal,”
“Yeah, and then Daddy said Kelly was stupid,” Phil cracked himself up, and fell to the kitchen floor in a fit of giggles. Pam put a hand to her mouth, stifling a laugh and a grin,
“I’m sure he didn’t say she was stupid,” she barely could get the words out without a laugh.
“C’mere,” Cece pulled Pam to the kitchen table and showed her all of her school work laid out, “I finished everything early today, and I wasn’t lazy, and a I also made my bed, because Dad said if I want to be President, that Presidents have to make their bed every day, oh and also put their clothes in their hamper,” she said with such seriousness, Pam glanced at her husband. He gave her a look that told her to keep this up as long as possible .
“Your Dad’s right,” she nodded, pursing her lips.
“Presidents also have to wash their hands before dinner,” she smiled pulling Phil up from the floor. The two ran off to the bathroom yelling about who would get their first, and how many pieces of grilled cheese they were going to eat as Pam looked at Jim.
“You’re a really good Dad, you know that?” She moved toward him, pulling his face close to hers, feeling his five o’clock shadow against her jaw as she pressed a kiss to it.
“I try,” he chuckled,
“She looks up to you so-”
“She really does,”
“I’m speaking Mr. Halpert,” she laughed playfully, and pulled him into a long kiss.