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Posts Tagged ‘New Salem’

Freedom

When our daughters were very young and our coffers were less than full, long before the term “staycation” was coined, we went on a series of mini trips. Greenfield Village near Detroit, Michigan. Nippersink, Wisconsin. Do you remember the MacDonald’s commercial with the little kids, all in a row, rain pouring down, slickers on, boots splashing, singing “we are Nippersinkers, we’re in luck, if it rains all day, we can waddle like a duck. Quack, quack, waddle, waddle. Quack, quack, waddle, waddle? Well, there really was a Nippersink.  Three or four days away, of playing in a swimming pool, seeing a little history, doing the best we could.

One such trip was to New Salem near Springfield. A reconstructed pioneer village where Abraham Lincoln once lived. I love New Salem and I love all things Lincoln. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s A Team of Rivals sits patiently on my shelves and eagerly falls into my hands when I go to read it every so often. It is a book that won’t be read by me in one session, I fear, but, in many fits and starts. That’s okay. Lincoln’s life was full of fits and starts.  I’ll get to it eventually.

Growing up in the late 50’s and early 60’s,the highlight of 8th grade was going to Springfield  for a field trip. We boarded a school bus early in the morning to go to the train station in Chicago, then took a train down to Springfield. How I remember that trip still; the clickety clack of the rails, the state capitol, rubbing Lincoln’s nose at the Lincoln Tomb for good luck, and exploring New Salem. As a mom, I hoped Jennifer and Katy would feel the same way.

It was a very hot day  in July when we visited as a young family. We were leaning over a split rail fence with other visitors, checking out the penned livestock. Jennifer was in rapt attention (or so I remember), but Katy was younger and doing her very best whining. Trying to placate her, we pointed to a butterfly flitting about over the animals. I remember it was yellow. A swallowtail, perhaps. It danced in the air as butterflies do. Others were watching it as well, admiring the butterfly’s beauty, while wiping perspiration from their brows. Suddenly, a bird swooped in and caught the butterfly just as it closed its wings aloft. A collective gasp escaped from the crowd watching. Just like that. The butterfly was captured mid-air, its flight cancelled, its beauty irrelevant, it’s already short life finished in an instant. I remember thinking right then how precious freedom is. I found it meaningful to be watching it in a place known for Abraham Lincoln’s early years; where he unsuccessfully ran a store and did odd, unpresidential work and from whence he held his first elected offices. I thought of his place in history as a revered American president, the great emancipator, his fight against slavery and his steadfast determination to preserve the Union.

That beautiful butterfly and its swift demise is an image that has remained with me for all these years. I think of it still.

I think of freedom and Abraham Lincoln, especially after this bitter campaign season we just came out of.

I thought of this all today.

It was on November 6, 1860, that Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.

150 years ago today.

 

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