Presidents’ Day Weekend

When Jon was a young boy growing up in Illinois, the state observed two individual presidential holidays in February: Lincoln’s Birthday, on February 12, and Washington’s Birthday, on February 22. Beginning in the 1960s, efforts were made to join the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen. Situating Presidents’ Day on the third Monday in February meant it would always occur from February 15 to 21, inclusive. It would never fall on either man’s birthday. In fact, although four chief executives (Washington and Lincoln, along with William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan) were born in February, none of their birthdays coincide with Presidents’ Day. So a day that was initially set aside to honor Washington and Lincoln is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some argue that grouping Washington and Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies. But we don’t see it that way. We think of Presidents’ Day as a day to celebrate the presidency itself, regardless of the individual who holds the office at any one time.

Our weekend began on Friday evening with a special Valentine’s Day dinner of Steak Diane–a pan-fried tenderloin in a cognac, butter, cream and mushroom sauce that Chef Cliff flambéed just before serving (to great dramatic effect). Accompanied by roasted potatoes and asparagus, it was an elevated Date Night treat.

We followed dinner with a viewing of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” the 1967 comedy-drama starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Houghton. Jon wanted to watch it because he recalled the final, touching scene between Tracy and Hepburn, filmed just 17 days before Tracy’s death, and thought it would make a romantic ending to the day.

The film was one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, as interracial marriage historically had been illegal in most states, and was still illegal in 17 states until six months before the film was released.

Saturday found us relaxing in Cloud 9 with open windows, mild temperatures, and gentle breezes. An early evening campfire was followed by a supper of grilled lobster tails with drawn butter, lemon pepper green beans, and Cliff’s signature Mexicorn with feta cheese. Perhaps because we had Hepburn’s memorable performance in mind, we decided to end our evening with a viewing of “On Golden Pond.”

Sunday was warm, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. After binge-reading The New York Times and The Washington Post, exploring Ancestry.com, we found ourselves brunching and hiking and napping. An early-evening campfire under starlit skies gave way to a Sunday supper of grilled pork loin chops and a broccoli medley in butter sauce. We ended the evening with a viewing of the latest episode of “Homeland” on Showtime. There’s definitely a “final season” vibe going on, as the characters seem to be tying up loose ends. Without giving too much away, we were glad to see that Saul had at least one last chance to experience a hooded kidnapping.

Monday, Presidents’ Day, was a bonus day for us, and it didn’t disappoint. Temperatures rose to the upper 70s, with mild breezes bringing white caps across the lake. It may not be the ocean, but the rhythmic sound of waves lapping against the shore is always calming. Considering the day, we started watching “Washington,” a three-part miniseries produced by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for the History Channel. Washington’s story is epic! There’s so much we never knew, including that he sometimes lied to support his personal ambitions (gasp!).

Presidents’ Day seems as good a time as any to remember that those we’ve elected to the nation’s highest office are mere mortals, prone to the same human foibles as the rest of us (albeit with more responsibilities). We’ll pray that, like Washington, the current occupant of the White House will somehow find a way to rise above his own imperfections and lead our great nation with integrity and humility.