When I was in eighth grade and the school year was winding down we took our big class trip down to Springfield IL to see the State capital and see Abraham Lincoln’s home. I was more excited about seeing Mr. Lincoln’s home than the capital. The capital was all about the business of state government and as an 8th grader I really couldn’t give a crud. I really wanted to see, to touch, the home where Abraham Lincoln lived and breathed.
I’d always been a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. There was just something about him that really appealed to me, as if he was everything America was supposed to be about. Plus, being from Illinois, The Land of Lincoln, I think I had a built in admiration thing going on. I admire him still. His accomplishments, perhaps revered a little by history, are still quite amazing, by any standard. He was America’s last battlefield President and during the Civil War confederates did take a few pot shots at him while he was touring the grounds. It’s a little different than G. W. landing on an aircraft carrier and declaring our mission was accomplished.
Abe was rugged and tough. I can only imagine the coarseness of his hands. It was a harder life back then and you had to do what you did in order to survive in the most literal of sense. You did things just to live. It’s very different now in this modern age of Monster trucks and tractor pulls and ironic facial hair. All in all though, we’re still just human beings.
This really hit home with me as a child while touring Mr. Lincoln’s home. I was just amazed at the simplicity of the home and its innate coziness. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t really explore. There were velvet ropes blocking off most of the rooms and you couldn’t get that close to things. It was a time before I had eye glasses and I couldn’t see everything as well as I would have liked. Glasses wouldn’t come until a little later that summer before High School.
The thing that got me though was Abraham Lincoln’s outhouse. That small building we were able to explore fully for some reason. It was hot that day, humid and sunny. I remember stepping into Abe’s outhouse and I couldn’t help but imagine old Honest Abe relieving himself on such a similar day in the late 1850’s. Just the image of Abe, sitting there, sweating, pants down, maybe reading a book or the day’s news made him seem more human than I had ever imagined. He was just like me. Just like everyone.
That was the thing I still remember most of all to this day. My imagining Abe, not at a big oak desk or at a podium delivering some inspired words, but as a regular man sitting on the toilet trying to remember what he ate yesterday that is making him suffer so. Perhaps he was sitting there, thinking about the future, wondering how he would be remembered, if he’d be remembered at all. Maybe he came to some conclusions sitting there; about life, justice, fairness and what a country like America would need. That and another damn roll of toilet paper.