Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, George!

(Taking a break from the all-I've-been-shot-all-the-time-network today.  Big Cuter commented on my obsession, acknowledging that I write from the heart and that my heart is filled with "my condition" but wondering if I ever had any other thoughts at all.  Yes, kiddo, I do.  Here are some of them:)

279 years ago today Mary Ball Washington gave birth to a boy child. He went on to become a surveyor, a land owner, a distiller and, oh yes, the first President of the United States of America.  Unlike many of the stories surrounding this man (think cherry trees and coins across the Potomac and standing up in an open boat as it crossed the Delaware) this is an indisputable fact.  Mary was not in labor on the third Monday of February.  She produced her child on a specific day - the 22nd day of February.  His birthday didn't move around with the vagaries of the federal holiday calendar.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln met her second son, Abraham, 202 years ago on February 12.  Like Mrs. Washington before her, she was not in labor on an indeterminate day sometime in the middle of the month.  It occurred on a certain day,, a day formerly commemorated by school children and mail carriers alike. 

Alas and alack, these fine gentlemen have been conflated into Presidents and their birthdays combined into a generic celebration designed primarily to afford employees the opportunity for a 3-day weekend in the middle of the winter. What was wrong with the old system, I wonder?  As an elementary schoolkid I looked forward to those random days off in the middle of the month.  One day, breaking up the routine.  One celebration for each president - pennies examined on the 12th, leadership and lying (not) on the 22nd. 

There was no time for a weekend away (not that G'ma and Daddooooo could have afforded to take us anyplace anyhow) and there was no competition between students for who went the furthest and had the most fun.  It was an opportunity to go sledding at Bethpage (the Black Course was used for many things in my youth; this was the best of them) or to meet friends at the bowling alley and then walk to Smiles (our precursor to a 5-and-dime) where we cruised the aisles until our parents picked us up.  It was grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon on the side, eaten on paper plates and accompanied by the admonition Don't Tell Daddy since the bacon was not exactly kosher and he cared a lot more than did G'ma.  There were snow forts to be built, snowball fights to be fought, snow men to be built. The entire neighborhood roamed from front yard to front yard, creating and tumbling and finding warmth and drinks and the occasional bathroom in whichever house we happened to be in front of when the need arose.

And now?  Now President's Day is always an event.  It's a long weekend for which plans must be made.  It has no intrinsic meaning, no relationship to George or Abe or any of their colleagues.  Their faces are used to advertise white sales and car sales and furniture sales and The History Channel runs back to back episodes of The Presidents but that's about the size of the historical component.  What began as tributes to great men has devolved into spending opportunities for the masses.

Am I bitter?  You bet.  A day off followed by another one 10 days later.... what better way to combat the winter doldrums than that?  A random day, a day to cuddle under the blankets with your sweetie or to do all that laundry that interfered with your weekend plans and so still sits in the basket, mocking you.  A day to explore the neighborhood and have lunch in that place you've driven by 100 times before..... a day just to be.

Sometimes, when I was a girl really was better.

6 comments:

  1. BC is loving and wise. Seem like heritable traits. <3!

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  2. Yes, he is, Kim... and the inheritance springs from his grandfather, I think, who was one of the kindest men I ever knew... and for whom BC is named.
    a/b

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  3. Last year on Styrofoam Prez Day a blogger who shall remain nameless (and NEVER read my posts before commenting) said something about our President needing to have a day of his own, since his popularity was down. She hoped it cheered him up, (or something to that effect).

    I very nearly waxed WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE IN PRINT in response. All that held me back was pity.

    I like people crazy enough to be president. I'm not typically fond of just anyone who thinks they might like to win that popularity contest; I'm talking about the ones who have that (surely, insane) trait that causes them to grow into the job and really, really try hard even if it destroys them. I've a fondness in my heart for fools such as they.

    I miss bowling, too.

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  4. We used to get both Washington and Lincoln's birthdays as holidays when I was younger, but then they gave us MLK day and thus they lumped two great presidents into one. Kind of irked me 'cause I thought we should have off all three days. Guess the schools have some problem with giving kids too many holidays. But I am glad we finally have off MLK day. Martin Luther King was a great man and I want my children to understand why.

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  5. The President's Day holidays used to remind me of the same thing a/b; playing in the snow, sledding, making igloos in the backyard, and one year, a sculpting frozen Valentine we dyed red. I am trying hard not to think of snow as the bane of my existence this year! Your post is making me feel a wee bit more positive!

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  6. I read your blog post today Ashleigh Burrows and it brought back memories of when I was growing up with the two separate holidays ten days apart. You knew that President Lincoln's birthday was the first holiday you could enjoy (Sledding, etc, in the wintertime) and that President Washington's birthday signaled that winter was coming to an end and that springtime was just around the corner. You knew that the days were getting longer and that basketball was beginning to wind down and baseball was starting up again. The Boys of Summer would be back at spring training getting ready for another great season of baseball.
    Thank you for the positive post about President's Day. I learned something new today. You are an extremely talent writer. God Bless you, TBG, your family, and the Green family.

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