Hail to the Chief

So, it's Presidents' Day -- that hybrid holiday which is an amalgamation of the birthdays of Misters Washington and Lincoln and now salutes all of our illustrious leaders.

I myself don't have a presidential anecdote -- although I did hear Bush the First speak at a Homecoming function at UF when he was Vice President. My dad had the opportunity to spend time with Bill Clinton on the campaign trail back in '92 -- and he still says to this day that a more charismatic man he's yet to meet (even though we're both more than a little irritated with WJC due to his antics on this current campaign trail... but I digress.) And my paternal grandmother may or may not have met Harry Truman, being a daughter of Missouri and a Yellow Dog Democrat herself -- the details are fuzzy. But man, did she love him.

But I'm reminded of the snippet of a story my maternal grandmother -- hereafter referred to as Nana -- told me about trying to go see Calvin Coolidge. (I Wiki-linked him, because if you're anything like me, you might need a refresher as to where he falls in the presidential scheme of things.)

Apparently President Coolidge was in town, staying at the very posh Vinoy Hotel. And rumour had it that Mr. Coolidge found the food in the main dining room too fancy for his more simple tastes and instead opted to eat in the employee cafeteria. Hmm. I often eat at the Vinoy -- and the food is damn fine. He didn't know what he was missing.

While he was at the hotel, there must have been some big to-do for him. Nana wasn't too specific on details (or else I was too young to remember them all) but she told of sitting on my grandfather's (known as Daddy Pete) shoulders to peer in one of the large vertical windows that looked into the room where President Coolidge was speaking.

That is so something I would have done. Even though I suspect that my political views and those of old Calvin differed greatly. But to take advantage of the chance to see a president as up close and personal and as casually as through a window -- hell, yeah I would have gone.

Opportunities like that are rare -- actually, they're basically non-existent any more, what with Secret Service and security clearances and the proliferation of media everywhere gives us the feeling that we are with the entourage anyway.

But the thought of my Nana, who I knew as a proper, loving but no-nonsense elementary school principal, sitting on her husband's shoulders, trying to get a look at a President just makes me smile. Taking a risk, doing something totally cheeky. While I wish I knew more of the details of this particular piece of family lore, what I know and have inferred gives me just a little more insight into how and why I'm programmed the way I am.

Here's to Presidents' Day and the men who held that office, y'all. And to being cheeky.

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