It wasn’t until the last 15 years that I was able to visit places George Washington frequented on his tenure of existence. I’ve been to Mount Vernon many times as I used to take students to the Washington, D.C. area at Easter break every year for about 15 years. One of the interesting facts that I learned about the building known as Mount Vernon is that it has a wooden exterior. I always thought the exterior was a stone of some kind.
One time we took a ferry down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon, getting off at the landing at the base of the hill that Mount Vernon sits atop. We walked up the pathway much as Washington must have done many times when he lived at Mount Vernon. As I got to the top of the hill, a federal ranger asked me if I would lay the wreath. I asked her which wreath and she said that they do a very small ceremony annually to commemorate the day George Washington left office. Someone reads the prayer Washington read to Congress upon his departure and someone else lays the wreath in the crypt of George and Martha Washington as a further commemoration of the day.
Sam Macaluso was with me and he was chosen to read the prayer and I placed the wreath between the two marble-covered coffins of George and Martha Washington in their crypt. It truly was a small ceremony attended by only the few tourists who happened to be going by the crypt when we performed it. After the ceremony, Sam and I and our wives were allowed to stand in the crypt and have our pictures taken as we stood between the Washingtons’ coffins in the crypt itself.
I, for one, really thought this was a great honor as Washington and I have shared birthdays so long. Although I never met the man, I still considered us kindred spirits of sorts by virtue of the fact that we shared birthdays. Until I laid the wreath, the closest you could get to Washington was to simply look into the crypt through its locked and bolted security door.
I never cut down a cherry tree that I had to tell my father about and I don’t know if George Washington ever did either or if that story is just a story. But I was proud to share the same birthday with the man and I still am. I will continue to be proud of our shared day as long as I’m allowed to have birthdays, despite what the government does with Washington’s Birthday. We’re still buddies as far as I’m concerned and that is a fact I think he would even agree with me about.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.