Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ben and George and Me

I have this thing going with two of our country’s Founding Fathers. 

It began when I met Ben Franklin at his gravesite in the Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia last week.That in itself was rather disconcerting.Then he started getting personal.

“Are you married, madam?” he asked politely. 

“No, I’m a widow,” I replied, still reeling from the shock of seeing him hovering around his own grave.

“I am a widower. I have asked two (or was it three?) women in Paris to marry me, but they turned me down.”

While that wasn’t exactly a proposal, it was the closest I’ve come to in many a year.

He graciously agreed to pose for a photo with me. I must say he’s rather photogenic for a ghost.

Next day, we (Carol Stern and I) moseyed over to the National Constitution Center. We found the “Headed to the White House” exhibit about presidential campaigns too noisy and too busy. We did enjoy pretending to sign legislation in the Oval Office mock-up. 

The most fascinating exhibit, however, was Signers Hall. That’s where I again encountered old Ben, who stiffly agreed to let me sit on his lap for another photo.

George Washington was hovering nearby. I didn’t realize how tall that man was! He posed with me, too. But I read somewhere that he has wooden teeth, so I refused his kiss for fear of splinters.

The foregoing exhibit features 42 life-size bronze models of our Founding Fathers that are amazingly, well, life-like. They are in various poses, some sitting, some standing, many talking together in small groups. The artist(s) who cast them used portraits and descriptions to get their heights, features and clothes as accurate as possible. It was great fun wandering among these guys.

We learned how the term “gerrymandering” came about. Being a wordsmith, I always enjoy learning the origins of words and phrases. While serving as governor of Massachusetts, Eldridge Gerry (a signer of our Declaration of Independence) approved a salamander-shaped district to help his party win seats in the 1812 state senate election. Mapping electoral districts to favor one political part over another quickly came to be known as “gerrymandering.”

I’m not a history buff, but my Philadelphia experience in general, and Signers Hall in particular, piqued my interest to the point that I ordered a book called, Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence. There were 56 of them, by the way.

Can’t wait to read about these "new" men in my life.

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