Back in 1997 I took my son, Scott, who just barely turned three years old, on a cross country trip to Boston. The thought was I might salvage the grad school offer a severe one year bipolar depression effectively sabotaged for me. By that I mean i didn’t return any phone calls or official letters, etc. Instead, I crawled inside my blanket fortress and waited for the blissful moment I blinked out of existence.
My wife suggested (read: threatened to divorce me if I didn’t try to get my academic career back on track) I get my lazy arse out of bed and get a meeting at Harvard. Hmmm. The parenthetical read a lot like the non-parenthical. My wife loved me so much she always reinforced her threats with threats. That’s just good operations research.
It continuously escaped her that the one year depression coincided with my senior year at New Mexico Tech, where I perfected the safety factor of 34,770 on my blanket fortress. I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t go to class, I didn’t graduate. It was going to be a tough grad school sell in Cambridge lacking the BA sheepskin. Smart girl considering how stupid she was. Definitely a sharp-dull lass (read: She was drowning in a sea of her own oxymorons).
I’ll snip the story a little here to get to the good stuff. I never went to the meeting at Harvard and instead turned the trip into a vacation for Scott and me. I dig the National Park Service, with most on the East Coast being historical in theme. Beacon Hill, Charleston, Orange, NJ, Valley Forge, Fort Maswik, Cumberland Gap (that’s a cool meteor impact that punched a hole in the Appalachians), Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, Gettysburg, Fort Smith, Lexington-Concord… we hit a ton of sites with all the spare time generated by not begging Harvard to take me in. By the by, I hated Boston and North End Italian food is one rung below Chef Boyardee’s arm pit stains on his Chef Boyardee chef shirt. So there.
Cool photo, yeah? Are you digging that frothy puff of follicles I used to sport? And how cute is my kid? And how cute am I? Shit, I’m wearing Tevas. I swear, I wasn’t a Greenpeace warrior throwing myself in front of harpoons and chain saws. I don’t care about whales or spotted owls in the least, although it’d be funky seeing a flock of spotted owls feasting upon a beached whale.
Okay, the photo is cool for a much better reason. This photo was taken at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This photo taken at a very specific room in the Pennsylvania State House, later renamed Independence Hall. This building holds a special place in the history of the United States of America. It’s where our country was born. And Scott and I are standing EXACTLY where our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution. We are standing where our country was born.
Usually, you can’t access this part of the room. It happened that the day we were there, the period pieces, artifacts, and other historical paraphernalia decorating the room had been taken to Washington DC for cleaning and restoration. So, the National Park Service was allowing tourists to enter the room and stand where our country was born. EXACTLY where the United States of America was born.
A really sweet college lass offered to take a photo of Scott and me, and that’s what you see above. What wasn’t photographed was me feeling a great swell of overwhelming significance, where I dropped to my knees and proceeded to weep openly in front of my three year old son and about 40 tourists of various miscellaneous assorted nationalities., along with a smattering of Americans. The sweet college lass ran to me and just held me in her arms. She started crying, too. And two other American came over and started crying. And the various miscellaneous assorted tourists of other nationalities chuckled and took photos.
YouTube was still a decade or so off, and that really sucks. I wish I had a video of that moment. I’m actually misting up right now thinking about that day. I’m going to go ahead and squirt a few salty drops out of my orbs. Pardon me for a few moments.
It’s so sad my son was too young to remember that day. It’s Bringe Family Lore all the same, and that photo holds a place of pride on the wall just under the baseball mitt my dad had in high school when he was pitcher. If you ever drop by Chez Steve, I’ll give you the tour.
And to close this out., that was a real emotion I was gifted that day, not some bipolar “overreaction.” And what’s non non non non non heinous is that moment of patriotic pride is what finally jump-started my brain out of its one year bipolar depression.
Those plaid Caddyshack shorts, I remember those. I tore them getting out of the Dumbo ride at Disneyland a few months later. Probably for the best. 1990s fashion mistake went unnoticed while I was weeping openly and publicly in Philly, After trotting about the Magic Kingdom for the day, I had to toss the shorts in the trash at home, being ripped beyond repair. I had to keep hiding the rip with a $40 Mickey Mouse sweatshirt tied backwards around my waist for fear of exposing my root to a bunch of kids at Disneyland. I think I would have been crying different tears having to register as a sex offender. Such an unfortunate placement of the rip.
Oh! One more story. Did I mention we stopped in to Valley Forge? Yes? Okay. While the Minutemen and such were outside freezing for the winter, General George Washington took up board in a cute little farm house, a two story deal where the general slept upstairs in the one room up a very narrow, low stairwell. I went up to check out the room, and on the way down I nailed my forehead on a wood cross beam and landed on my arse, totally from reflex than head injury. It’s a soccer thing.
Anyway. The National Park Ranger, dressed in period garb and trained in period lingo (she told me “Thar be leeches, goodsir” when I was splashing around in the stream outside in my Tevas… stupid Tevas), totally dropped character and gasped, “Oh my God, are you okay?!?”
I’m 6 foot 3. General Washington was 6 foot 5. Without missing a beat, I said, “That was so cool! I nailed my head where the first president of the United States of America must have hit his head a billion times!”
I like interactive history.
Reprinted with kind permission from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.