My Love Affair with Lincoln

Today I’d like to talk about affairs, in honor of General Petraeus. (Snap!)

My love affair with Abraham Lincoln began when I was young, much too young. As an eight-year-old, I had no business being interested in a man who was 175.

But I felt we were M.F.E.O.—Made For Each Other.

He was born February 12. I was born February 13.

He was president of the United States. I was born in the bicentennial year of 1976. Both very patriotic things.

He was born in a log cabin, and I desperately wanted to have been. (Ask my mom about the time I found out that there was such a thing as living in the 19th century during the 20th century—aka, being Amish. I begged my mother to let me be Amish. I was sure I’d been born in the wrong century—a belief I’m still not altogether sure is wrong.)

My sense of justice as an eight-year-old was quite rigid. Slavery, of course, was far outside my boundaries and I was incensed, absolutely fired up, to learn of its prior existence in America. Lincoln came to the rescue.

And, oh my, his words. Lincoln is the first writer I loved.

Of course, I hid our affair. In 6th grade, as the children sitting at their desks around me received their Scholastic Books orders of Sweet Valley High, the teacher slapped a copy of Lincoln, a Photobiography on my desk. The girl in front of me turned around and said, “What is that?”  “It’s for my mom,” I replied.

When Ken Burns came out with his documentary of the Civil War, I watched and cried and cried and watched and transcribed certain bits onto paper lunch bags I was able to grab in time (couldn’t pause TV back in the 20th century). I hid the scraps in my journals and books.

In college, I brought with me the VHS box set of the documentary, but I kept it in the back room. When my boyfriend found it and asked about it, I shrugged: “Oh, just a gift from my mom.” No biggie. It’s not like I’m in love or anything.

Now that boyfriend is my husband, so I’ve had to let him in on my affair. (Don’t worry, I told him well before the wedding.) It still sometimes takes him aback, though. We visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois last weekend. I spent 3 ½ hours reading every bit of display. When I exited, my husband, who was sitting on a bench with his iPhone, exhaled and said, “You love you some Lincoln, don’t you?”

I do. I really do.

You know where I’ll be this weekend. (Shhh.)

I’ll leave you with some bits of my sweetheart’s genius:

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.  

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

 

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21 thoughts on “My Love Affair with Lincoln

  1. I love this! My best friends little boy (who is 7) is also obsessed with Lincoln. He begged her to be Abe for Halloween…and he was! He even sleeps with a stuffed Abe that they got in Springfield.

  2. I think your love affair with Lincoln is totally appropriate. He was a brilliant man! How many times are you going to see the movie this weekend??

  3. A noble cause and an honest man, it’s hard not to love either one. 🙂
    Three of my great-grandfathers served in the Union army in the Civil War and I’ve always been fascinated by that era. I hope the movie lives up to the hype (though Sally Field will forever be Norma Rae to me). Saw the preview last weekend and it looks promising!

    • So interesting–do you know their stories? This past spring I started doing family research and found out one side owned slaves in Virginia, and one fought for the Union. It’s fascinating to me.
      PS. Sally Field will forever be M’Lynn to me. 🙂

      • Wow!! Do you know what happened to your ancestor’s slaves after the war? I know that states rights and tariffs are major reasons for the split between North and South, but slavery is the real heartbreaker… I can’t imagine buying and selling people, splitting up families.
        One of my great-grandfathers was really changed by the war, but his papers are written in a German dialect and it’s been difficult translating them. I’ve been piecing together my family’s stories for years. It’s a bit addicting… (My excuse for not having seen Steel Magnolias – haha!)

        • It IS addicting. No – I have no idea what happened to the slaves–my family actually owned them in the 1700s and my line moved to Chicago before the Civil War. That’s fantastic that you have your great-grandfather’s papers. I don’t have anything so personal. I know someone in Berlin if you need help translating; I could ask her.

  4. Love the Ken Burns series! My wife and I can’t wait to see the movie “Lincoln.” Just bought “Blood on the Moon” by Edward Steers. Totally amazed that you had such a mature affection for Lincoln at such a young age. You are way too cool. Does your husband know how cool you are? Have you visited Gettysburg with him yet? Beautiful and tragic. And great ghost tours…woooooh….
    I too would like to know what you think of the movie. Only 3 more days…

  5. I am dying to see the movie! I think I’m going to let my 13 year old see it too since they are studying this time period in school. Of all the presidents, Lincoln is my favorite as well.

    I also feel I should have been born at another time and then I think about no screen windows and no smart phones. I may have died at the age of twelve if I lived back then. Modern times have made me a wussy. 🙂

    And I love that you love you some Lincoln.

    • It was good. So so good. I’m more in love than ever (though now I keep picturing Daniel Day-Lewis, which says something about his performance).
      Yeah, I think I’m also past my Amish days. Though I did almost apply to be on Pioneer House when it was on PBS about ten years ago–if you never saw it, you should look it up.

  6. I’ll be surprised if Lincoln doesn’t win best picture, best actor, best actress, and best supporting actor. Spielberg is so good at transporting you through time. I loved Lincoln’s way with a story, especially Washington’s portrait in the water closet.
    Truly a man born for the time. I can’t stop looking at photos of Lincoln on Google images. Day-Lewis made him alive for me. Think I’ll grow a Lincoln beard.
    Warmth and Peace

  7. Okay, hear me out. As a Lincoln fan, you owe it to yourself to read ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Vampire Hunter. The novel is in 3 fonts: one for historical excerpts; one for actual journal excerpts; and one for the author’s narrative story. The writing is excellent, and the story is fascinating.
    I have two history-buff friends, one a history professor, who both were stunned by the accuracy of the first two categories and thoroughly enjoyed the overall book. It’s worth a try for a Lincoln fan… Especially one who needs a reality check about the requirements of being Amish.
    p.s. The movie is spectacular, and Sally Fields and Daniel Day-Lewis (and others) are Oscar worthy.

    • Totally agree; I can’t think of Lincoln now without picturing DD-L. And I was just telling my husband, who watched the Lincoln vampire movie, that I heard a lot of good things about the book. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it, but I didn’t know about those three fonts, which makes it more interesting….

  8. Pingback: All-time Favorite Love Letter « True STORIES.

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