A while back, due to the illness of a family member, I had not been as involved in the local politics of my hometown of Flemington, as I would have liked. So to kickoff the new year, with the mid-term state legislative races on the horizon as well as local Council races needing a helping hand, I went to a local meeting of Democrats in Hunterdon County.
Now, the thing about Democrats in Hunterdon County is this: they are very dedicated souls, and true ‘blue’ to the core. If you’re a Democrat in this very Republican County, you’re REALLY a Democrat. There is no reason to be a Democrat here except for a true belief on the party of Jefferson, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.
Such is the case with Reyna and Irving Zelinsky. Great Democrats, always willing to help canvass, donate, host events, and phone bank during election time. I called upon them a lot, and they never say ‘no’.
The Zelinskys, now both American citizens, were originally from Czechoslovakia coming here as a couple in the 60s, forty years ago. They both speak English now, albeit with a Czechoslovakian accent. I met this couple about six years ago during a local Flemington campaign, when they asked me for help with a Motor Vehicle Commission matter. Seems that when they moved from NYC to New Jersey, there was some issue with switching Irving’s drivers license. He was getting the runaround in both New Jersey and New York, and was very frustrated. I made a few phone calls to both offices, and was able straighten out a simple bureaucratic mess. And we became friends through politics.
Upon my arrival at the meeting, I was very glad to see the Zelinskys. I had not seen them much in the last year or so, and was glad to run into them at this party meeting at the home of the local Democratic chair. Reyna and Irving never failed to call me “Mr. Novick”, and my ongoing joke was, “Mr. Novick, that’s my father. Call me Joey.”
Hugs all around, and Reyna says to me in her Czechoslovakian-accented English, “Mister Novick! How are you? I’m glad you’re here.” I make my usual joke, and say hello to Irving, too.
Then Reyna continues, “Mr. Novick, I missed you. Your new genius. I was just talking Irving the other day. I miss your new genius come election time.”
Well, I was very moved by this seemingly very moving complement. I’ve worked hard on elections, won more than I lost in this very Republican town, but never thought of myself as a ‘genius’. I attributed the term ‘new genius’ to her sometime misunderstanding of American idiomatic expressions. However, I thanked her anyway.
“Reyna, that is very kind of you, but we all work hard on elections in order to win. I am hardly a ‘genius’ or a ‘new genius’. I learn from everybody…I”. Then she interrupts me and asks, “What are you mean ‘genius’? What?”
I am uncomfortable at her question, but try to laugh it off. “I think we are all geniuses—when we are working hard…”. Just then she turns to her husband, and she says something in her native language. He says something back, and they both start laughing together. Irving, laughing, tries to explain.
“Mr. Novick, Reyna didn’t say ‘new genius’. She said she misses your (he pauses to speak slowly)…she misses, we miss your ‘nudgey-ness’. The way during election time you call for meeting. You call for phone banks. Put sign up. Everyday you call. Help out with seniors. Help out at office. You’re a nudge. A big nudge. Your nudgey-ness. This we missed. Your nudgey-ness.” I smile, laugh and thank them again. However, I am humbled.
But, I know in my heart that one does have to be somewhat of a genius out here in Hunterdon to win as a Democrat, be a nudge, and still keep your sense of humor.
And make new friends like the Zelinskys.