Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking for Lincoln

This morning we headed into the heart of Springfield Illinois, with the intent of visiting the Lincoln Library. We parked and discovered many historical Lincoln related sites that begged for exploration. Looking for Lincoln plaques dotted the historic districts, giving tidbits of Lincoln and Springfield history. We walked the block and went up the steps of the Lincoln house. The wooden plank walkway outside the Lincoln house had caution tape as bright as goldenrods waving gently in the breeze. First glance had me thinking of crime scene tape. A tour seemed impersonal, we wanted to find Lincoln not a gaggle of restless tourists fidgeting with selfies. He was not home.

We wandered through the Lincoln Public Library then walked over to the actual Lincoln Presidential Library. Without anything we specifically wanted to research we instead admired the neat shelves of research materials. There was a detailed exhibit of the Lincoln funeral train procession. Still no Abe.

We decided on the Lincoln Museum next, with gregarious staff and 3D holographic displays it had impressive and eye catching sights. We chuckled watching a modern style news broadcast on the 1860 election that even had fake "paid for by" campaign commercials and other news including Pasteur spouting off quackery about invisible things he called germs. The most impressive aspect of the museum for me was the political cartoons attacking Lincoln throughout his political career. There was foreshadowing in the many starkly monochrome depictions of him as a circus performer and theatrical caricature. I pondered the slanted frames and shadowed images thinking about his eventual demise.
There were many aspects of his life that were on display, but many that were left with just a hint of information.

Lincoln and the Blackfoot. The conspiracy theories. The other other Confederate sympathizers that were arrested and charged with treason in relation to Lincoln's death. Lincoln and the Todd family conflicts over banking. Lincoln versus the banks. Everything was about his life from rail splitting to possible sweethearts; with strong emphasis on abolition as his burning goal in life which contrasted with his own words in later exhibits. It was excellent but lacking in some of the depth we had hoped for, while full of patriotic emotionally evocative music and lighting. It was impressive but we did not feel like we found Lincoln there.

We headed to Union Station which has a display with items from the set of the movie Lincoln. Interesting but Union Station itself seemed more intriguing. We left restless, no Lincoln yet. Now the informational Looking for Lincoln signs seemed to jeer and taunt in the stifling afternoon. Lincoln once walked the same streets with local kids tying string across the street to knock his hat off his head, a favorite prank, but it was hard to picture unless he played along and pretended not to see the string to hear the children wildly laugh as he picked up the hat.

We regrouped having lunch at a local microbrewery owned by the Conn family, close friends of the Lincolns. It was refreshing, the perogies being our favorite part of the meal.

We headed to the Lincoln tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. We walked in and I noticed a sign to silence phones. As I silenced my phone something the volunteer said brought a laugh bubbling out that carried down and through the square hallway. There. In that moment as my eyes took in the words requesting respectful quiet while my laugh still echoed I could see Lincoln smiling. A sharp mind who appreciated sharp wit, who fought melancholy through quips and jokes. A man criticized for approaching serious situations with humor intact. I laughed at the entry of the tomb and it carried and echoed through the loop. It might have been the first laugh in his presence since the moment before his assassination. I did not laugh again but I was glad that I had.

That sound was where Lincoln dwelled.