Monday, January 11, 2010

Reflections on a suit...and a table and a chairs

In Decemeber I went to Washington D.C. to visit my parents, who now live there. One cold Wednesday morningmy mother and I journeyed to the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. I am an American History geek and she indulges my complusion.
The museum was filled to the brim with eager and not so eager goers. Groups of school aged children obviously forced to endure a day at the Smithsonian Mall intermingled with a myriad of Midwestern families and hard –core history buffs. I am one of the latter. I truly love history, especially American History.
The artifacts that line every conceivable space of the museum were plentiful and amazing. But something like nothing I have ever seen before stopped me in my tracks. I went no further and soaked in the beauty of it, much to the unhappiness of those others around me. I was rooted to my spot and they had to travel around me.
It was Lincoln’s suit. The actual suit he wore to the office, you know that Oval one, every day. It was a faded black, almost a rich brown under the muted lights of the display case. My first thought at seeing this item was, Lincoln was skinny. After that the overwhelming sense of history, of life confined in that glass case. The conversations this configuration of fabric and thread had been privy too was mind blowing. To everyone, including me, Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, the Father of the Civil War, one of the greatest president’s we have ever known as a people. But to me especially, he was something more
I am a Nevadan. Now I know what you’re thinking. What does that have to do with Lincoln? My states motto is Battle Born. You see, Nevada became a state October 31st, 1864. Lincoln was the president who gave my home a real American identity. Nevada was born in the heat of the Civil War, in the heat of battle, hence Battle Born. As I gazed on this suit, I couldn’t help but wonder was he wearing this when he gave Nevada Statehood? What went through his mind when he made Nevada more than a territory out west he would never lay eyes on? Home means Nevada, home means the hills. Home means the sage and the pine. All this from a lanky man in a faded black suit. Thanks Abe.
Next we turned a corner into The Price of Freedom, Americans at War exhibit. This exhibit traces America's mitilatry from the Revolutionary War to the present. Plainly put, it was amazing. George Washington's uniform to 'Stormin' Norman's battle fatigues. But to me there was nothing so beautiful and so moving as the chairs and table Lee and Grant sat at for the surrender at Appomattox Court House. Over this simple wooden tabletop the Union once again became whole, in a manner of speaking. I had to turn away from my mom, I didn't want her to see me tear up. I shouldn't have worried. She calmly said, "It's okay honey I understand. You look all you want." And I did just that.
Has something in history ever effected you that much? How and what was it?