Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reflections on a Suit...being Battle Born

   A few years ago I went to Washington D.C. for the first time in eighteen years. I went with my brother and his wife; they are my favorite traveling companions. One sunny Friday afternoon, while my family napped, I journeyed to the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. I had some time to kill before I walked over to Ford’s Theatre for a matinee performance of The Civil War. (Musical theatre nerd, remember? Plus Civil War is one of my favorite musicals of all time and I wasn't going to miss a chance to see it on stage. Brilliant modern staging. But I digress...)
                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. Now you all know the latter was me. I make no excuses for my American History geekiness. I embrace it.
                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 holds the Resolute desk and the 'red phone', 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. Like proper skinny. He must have disappeared from sight when turned sideways. 
                After that came the overwhelming sense of history, of life and turmoil this suit had seen and was now 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? He needed the electoral votes our state would provide in the upcoming election in order to be re-elected. That of course was one factor for Nevada Statehood, as well as the large amounts of silver and gold coming out of the area. But was there something more? Did he sit down in the dead of night as he was prone to do and look at a map, thinking that bit of dusty earth needs to be something more to America. What shall it become? As it turns out we aren't doing too bad. We could be better but Nevada has a rich and varied history (much of which people never even realize or come to know)
So to that I say 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.

(Oh and I'm totally listening to the Lone Ranger Theme song as I write this...because I can)

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