Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Living next door to the senator's daughter

When the winds of fate blew us from Philly to Carbondale, Illinois, one of the best outcomes for us is we rented a house in town next door to Sheila Simon and her family. She's the daughter of the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon, a bow-tie wearing liberal whose common-sense approach to government was in the same vein as Abraham Lincoln's.

If you're from somewhere else, this might not mean much, but if you're from down here in the mining country of Southern Illinois, you gotta understand, it's all Simon all the time. There's the water tower in Makanda, a hamlet a few miles south of here where Paul Simon built his sensible, ecologically advanced country home in the 1980s. The tower sports a bright yellow paint job and a smiley face, replete with a black bow-tie. Then there's the Simon Public Policy Institute here at Southern Illinois University. You can't miss the Senator Paul Simon Federal Building in downtown Carbondale with its solar panels in the roof. He also founded the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and—the list goes on and on.

Paul's daughter, our neighbor, Sheila Simon is the real deal. Right now she's a city council member here in Carbondale, and she just announced she's gonna run for mayor. Of course, I've helped elect a mayor before, and this really appeals to me. And that's not just because she's a Democrat, but more because she's my next door neighbor and I get an intimate glimpse of how she lives.

She's a mom and she's always driving her daughters to music lessons and school events and god knows where else. Clearly, her family comes first in her life.

She's in a band called Loose Gravel. She plays banjo and the other women in the band play mandolins and violins and guitars. Their songs are wry and sweet and make you smile.

She spent spring break on a fact-finding trip to Cuba.

She invites us to dinner quite often. Then we get to join her and her family and an eclectic set of guests who are as likely to be from Zimbabwe as Carbondale. We come away energized.

She lets us borrow her push lawn mower to get some exercise while we trim our grass, and I know she's glad we're saving a half gallon of gasoline. Tells us to "use it anytime—you know where it is." In fact, she and Perry, her husband, are so environmentally conscious you see their laundry hanging on clotheslines all the time. Many evenings Sheila rides up on her Trek bicycle, commuting home from her workday. These folks practice what they preach.

There's something about Sheila that tells me she's destined for something bigger than mayor of Carbondale. How about President of the U.S.?



At 6:37 PM, Blogger DetroitGirl said...

I'm in!


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