Today we celebrate Presidents’ Day. For many of us that means a day off of work/school, a day of receiving no bills in the mail and the unavailability of in-person banking.
Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors all presidents of the United States. The day specifically honors the birthday of our first president, George Washington. Truth be told, his birthday is February 22, but since that doesn’t always coincide with a three-day weekend, we honor him just a bit early. Sorry, George. We love you and all, but we need a long weekend.
On this Presidents’ Day, I encourage all of us to give our president a break. Can you imagine doing that job? First, I would be constantly scrutinized for wearing yoga pants, sneakers and a baseball cap way too often. I would want to do my own laundry. I would want to take a run on Pennsylvania Avenue by myself. I would tell most reporters and annoying people to get a freakin’ life.
Every president is terrorized. Barrack Obama was criticized for playing too much golf and going on too many vacations and partying too much with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Yeah, I though so, too. But again, the stress of that job most likely requires great distraction.
President Trump tweets too much and sometimes talks too much. However, he, like all past presidents, is a human, full of frailty and weakness and brokenness. Grace, grace, grace and a little prayer wouldn’t hurt, either.
But back to the birthday boy. The famous claim that George Washington sported a set of wooden teeth is little more than a myth. However, dental issues plagued him for most of his adult life. He began losing teeth as early as his twenties and was eventually forced to wear several sets of unsightly and painful dentures.
Washington’s many false choppers were made out of varying combinations of rare hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, gold wire springs and brass screws. Though his dentures were fashioned by some of the best dentists of the late 18th century, they still left him disfigured and often in pain.
Keeping his teeth looking as white and natural as possible was a constant chore. He often shipped them off to his dentist to keep them in working order. The teeth would easily turn brown and their occasional unsightly appearance may have first started the rumor that they were made from wood.
Worse still, the dentures caused jaw discomfort (I can imagine!) and forced the President’s lips to, as he once wrote “bulge” in an unnatural fashion. This facial disfigurement is somewhat apparent in artist Gilbert Stuart’s famous unfinished painting of George Washington from 1796 – the same portrait that appears on the one dollar bill.
So, today when you pull money from your pocket or purse to pay for your Starbuck’s venti decaf double espresso macchiato with whipped cream, and you see ol’ George’s face on the dollar bill, give him a little grace, too. He was doing his best to smile with his not-wooden teeth.