Here are Miriam’s prompts for this week. I guess I’m not really late if we consider that George Washington’s birthday isn’t until Friday–we just celebrated last Monday, supposedly.
*As a child, do you remember celebrating either Lincoln or Washington’s birthdays? How did you celebrate them? What do you remember learning about either of these men?
It’s been so long since grade school. But it seems to me I remember acknowledging both–along with the shoebox covering for the Valentine’s exchange, we cut out silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington each February.
Of course, I remember the “Honest Abe” stories–his hard beginnings, his mother’s death and his studying by candlelight, and his walking so many miles to return a penny or so he’d shorted his customer. Honesty seemed to be a big theme for emphasis because I also remember the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie” story for George Washington. And his wooden teeth.
The other thing I remember is that when I would visit my grandmother in South Dakota in the summers, we would sometimes stop by a little house in Blunt. The house had belonged to one of Abe Lincoln’s teachers back in Illinois who had lived in Blunt at the end of his life. His name was Mentor Graham–though I don’t know if that was really his first name or a title–but I loved going there and feeling a direct connection to Abraham Lincoln. In 1981, my grandmother and I got to take my sons there–one was an infant and the other was 3, but it is a meaningful memory for me even if they can’t remember it.
*Did you get a day off of school, have an assembly, or was there a play performed?
Not that I remember. But those were the days before “Spring Break.” ahhhh, the good ol’ days
*Do you ever remember reading any books or watching any movies about these two leaders?
I don’t remember anything specific, though I have some recollection of Sam Waterston playing/reading for Abe Lincoln in Burns’ The Civil War.
*In your opinion, who was the greatest leader of our country, and why?
I don’t know that I want to do this one here. I can say that I have a great deal of admiration for both Lincoln and Washington–for their vision and their sacrifice and their humanity.
*In your current career, do you get Presidents Day off? Why or why not?
It depends. I’ve had jobs that we did not have the day off–teaching at University, working in a public library. I now work at a state historical society and we had that day off. Who knows the reasoning?!!
*In many communities, Presidents Day weekend is well-known for sales and special deals. How do you feel about this? Do you like to go shopping on this weekend? Or do you feel this emphasis on commercialism is disrespectful?
I can’t say that I think it’s disrespectful, but I don’t shop on that weekend. Of course, I don’t shop any weekend and as seldom as I can get by with, so I’m probably not typical in this respect.
*Presidents Day is also a day when veterans and Purple Heart recipients are honored. Are or were there any Purple Heart recipients in your family or ancestry? Have you written about what they did to earn this great award?
I don’t know anyone in my family who was awarded the Purple Heart. I do remember that one year we were doing a display for Veteran’s Day at the library, and one of our security guards brought his medal for our display. That’s really the first time I can remember seeing a medal and the person to whom it was awarded.
The other things I remember about Lincoln and Washington are that the summer we took the boys to South Dakota, 1981, we also visited Mount Rushmore. What a huge undertaking that must have been.
And my husband and I visited the log cabin ?replica? in which Abe Lincoln was born on one of our vacations before the kids were born–I just remember how beautiful Kentucky was and how much it smelled like whiskey.
Another favorite memory is going through Mount Vernon on one of our trips to D.C. I loved being there and looking at the gardens as well as the house. I thought His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis was a strong biography of Washington–I tend to like to get inside people’s heads, and I thought Ellis did a good job of describing the “why” of many of Washington’s decisions.