On Wednesday of this week my family and I made our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to visit the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb to say prayers for the repose of the souls of Lincoln and his family. A few observations:
1. Weather: Illinois has been experiencing one of the coolest Julys on record. Yesterday the high was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 15 degrees below what we often experience at this time of year. Very pleasant weather for walking about downtown Springfield.
2. Officiousness-My family and I renewed our membership in the Lincoln Museum Association for $70.00. That is pricier than if we had to pay for tickets but I like to encourage the Museum with funds, especially as I view the enjoyment of the kids who come there to see the Lincoln exhibits. Right after we did that a guard stopped us as we were entering the main part of the museum and asked to examine my wife’s purse. He saw that she had gum and mints and told us she would have to put the gum and mints in a locker before we could enter since no food and drink could be brought in. We have been coming to the museum since 2006, after it opened in 2005, and this had never happened to us before. It was obvious to me that the young man was taking a reasonable rule and making it absurd. We complied, although the lawyer part of me wanted to make an issue of it. However, I did not want to get the young guard into trouble, which I assume will happen swiftly enough if this is how he is treating all female patrons. I decided to let it be by someone else’s hand and I was not going to mar our day with a confrontation.
3. Decisions-The museum was wonderful as always. The standout for me, as usual, was Lincoln standing behind his desk, looking at the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, as shadows behind him gave him conflicting advice about whether to emancipate the slaves. Great decisions are always easy unless you are the one making them.
4. Prairie Archives-Then off to the Prairie Archives where I purchased several books on Lincoln to further torture the book shelves where I have stored several hundred volumes on the Civil War and Lincoln. We also picked up for my daughter a t-shirt with the image of Mary Lincoln and the inscription: “I’d have to be crazy to live in Illinois.” (Alas, my daughter, poor gal, has inherited my sometimes warped sense of humor.)
5. Lincoln’s Tomb-A visit to Lincoln’s Tomb never ceases to impress me. The President during our bloody Civil War, his tomb is completely unguarded in a cemetery that serves the general public. Visitors are requested to remain silent out of respect for Mr. Lincoln and his family, all of whom are buried there, except for Robert Lincoln who chose to be buried in Arlington among other American veterans of the Civil War. We followed in a young family who stopped by each plaque to read excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches. There is a strange timeless quality within the tomb as the years seem to melt away for a second or two and we remember that the Lincolns were a family with their private joys and tragedies as they made their way through this Vale of Tears in the century before the last one, and not mere “historical personages” trapped in the dry text of History.
I find this annual visit very comforting. When the kids were young, part of it was educational of course. Now that the kids are grown, with my son beginning law school in the fall and my daughter beginning her sophomore year in college, it allows me to stay in touch with the past, mine and Mr. Lincoln’s, while having fun in the present. A good day.