"My family and everyone in the whole world," she responded instantly.
"Just name one person."
"Can I say three? Bronwyn, Autumn, and JoJo!" Those are her friends from the neighborhood. I'm hoping that one of these days they'll start a band and, as I've told them, call it "JoJo and the Sea Walls." It's an inside joke that panders to girls 6 to 60 who are obsessed with Jojo Siwa, a 16-year-old cultural phenom with giant hair bows and glitter-encrusted dance numbers. Still, they weren't amused and probably won't let me manage the band.
"What's your favorite song?"
"Why Don't You Just Meet Me in the Middle." Okay, maybe they're not quite as A-OK as I like to imagine, since "The Middle" is a truly repulsive earworm of a song, especially when its lover-duet lyrics are sung by a five year old.
"What's your least favorite food?"
"Hot sauce and anything spicy."
"Who's your least favorite person?"
"Michael Jackson and Donald Trump. I hate them!"
And there it was, direct from the black-and-white world of a five year old: the pop idol who sang lead on "ABC," the song they love, and who also hurt kids: a fact they know from too much exposure to National Public Radio and a long car ride ill-timed to coincide with breaking news about the release of the documentary film Leaving Neverland. (Its topic was Jackson's child sexual abuse.) And -- why am I not surprised in our household? -- the illegitimate president of the United States who yells and throws tantrums like a spoiled five year old, lies like a spoiled seven year old, tweets like a spoiled 12 year old, and more than two-and-a-half years after entering the Oval Office continues to rewrite the rules of the game and the world in ways that are anything but healthy for children, not to speak of other living things.
Madeline is fierce and funny and fragile like any five year old. I fear that the world Donald Trump is taking such a hand in creating won't have room for her -- and, on some deep level, I suspect, she senses that, too, and it makes her mad.
The news on NPR was playing in the kitchen one morning recently when Madeline came in. "Turn it off!" she demanded, her voice stentorious and aggrieved. "I do not want to hear that man's voice today!" Another morning, seeing the president's photo in the newspaper on the table, she pounded it with her fists, chanting, "Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump!"
Now that Madeline is in school -- she started kindergarten after Labor Day -- she's trying to be a nicer person. She talks a lot about how she needs to be "nice." So, after declaring that Michael Jackson and Donald Trump were the worst people in the world, she added, her voice thick with a saccharine school-edge, "But I would still treat them nicely."
She says it, in fact, with such fervor that initially I wonder whether she's inverted the meaning of the word nicely. If she hasn't, she may have to. The Trump administration is taking out after the future of my kids and Madeline, her brother, and her sister sense it.
The Donald's Assault on the Future
Before Donald Trump was a household word as a hotelier, a womanizer, and the 45th president of the United States, "trump" was a verb meaning to supercede, dominate, outrank. How perfect, as it happens, for a man who is, in all modesty, trying to trump the future -- Madeline's, Seamus's, and Rosena's.