Last week, my husband David and I dragged our three kids to Washington, D.C., from our Tennessee home for a week of politics. We’ve been very involved in the 2012 presidential race, so it was a field trip of sorts that would allow the kids to see all of the action: the Occupy protesters, the shouting chants between the Santorum and Romney supporters outside the ballroom, and, of course, the speeches!
What we didn’t realize is that David had been nominated for the prestigious Ronald Reagan Award, the highest award given at CPAC. ACU director David Keene described the award this way: “The winners of this award, our highest honor, are not household names, but the men and women working in the trenches who sacrifice and, in so doing, set an example for others.”
When we arrived, I was pulled aside and given a heads up. David had been nominated and had even won! My job was to make sure he attended the dinner, was completely surprised, and that all of the children were dressed appropriately for a possible stage moment upon acceptance. This was complicated by the fact that I’d come to D.C. to do some book-signing activities with Bristol Palin as a part of my celebrity ghostwriting life. Events were scheduled at the same time, so I cut short my time with her on Saturday night.
This meant my 13-year-old Camille was responsible for my four-year-old Naomi during some of the dinner leading up to the award. I came an hour late. When I arrived, Governor Scott Walker was wowing the crowd. I noticed my son was wearing tennis shoes — the only shoes we’d packed — with an untucked shirt. Nevertheless, everyone was in a fine mood, and I could tell that David had no idea. The person who’d nominated me texted me during Governor Walker’s speech. “Don’t let him leave to go to the bathroom; it’s coming up!”
I wrestled with Naomi through the speech, and she ran out of good mood after being there about two hours. I had brought a book, drawing papers, and even an iPad. But she was finished. She fidgeted. She got up and down off my lap. People were watching our table, because a film crew from David’s work (the American Center for Law and Justice) had stayed to record the event. The last trick I had in my purse was a first-aid kit. Quietly, I took it out and let Naomi do what she never gets to do: play with Band-Aids. This bought me at least another half an hour. She unwrapped each bandage, asked me where my boo-boo was, and tenderly applied to the imaginary wound. I steered her away from my face and created fake injuries on my hands and fingers.
David Keene and Al Cardenas got up to present the award, describing the winner in vague terms, which got more and more specific. I didn’t dare look at David, afraid I’d give it away. Instead, I kept accepting Band-Aids and preparing Naomi for her moment on stage. “What if we could go up there? Want to see the lights? Can you smile?”
By the time David realized he’d won the award, he was visibly moved and urged to make an on-the-spot speech. We took the whole family onto the stage, people applauded, and I prayed that we could make it through without some sort of Naomi break down. She’d seen every candidate speak, had been pulled through the exhibit hall, and had even been interviewed by the Huffington Post. I had no reason to assume she could survive another speech, even if it was her father’s.
When Al Cardenas shook my hand, I wondered if he knew how much this meant to me. I also wondered if he was puzzled that my hands were covered in Band-Aids. Nevertheless, we had our moment, and this was it: