I Met the Original Jackass
When I was in third grade, I was required to write a lengthy history report on a person from United States history. Okay, lengthy for me back then was seven or eight pages of wide-ruled notebook paper, handwritten and double spaced. I almost couldn’t contain myself to that with the character I selected.
My parents had a book from the 1960′s on The Hermitage, Jackson’s home outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I read that book from cover to cover, and I cut pictures out of it to bring my narrative to life. The founder of the Democratic Party was fascinating to me, even at the age of eight.
On Saturday, I visited The Hermitage for the first time in my life. It was surreal to see the painting of Jackson on his white horse that inspired the cover of my third grade project. With painstaking precision, I cut around the silhouette of man-and-horse and Elmer’s glued it to the report’s yellow cover.
My little eyes pored over the architecture, not understanding what it all meant, but knowing I was drawn to it. That connection was no less striking in adult life, as I reached out to caress the columns I knew through photos as a girl. A house that seemed ginormous to me from pictures shrunk to fit the man I studied.
It was his burial place that had the most poignant impact on me as an adult, though. I recalled the domed-and-pillared structure from a lone photograph. Saturday, I sat in front of it and communed with the man I came to know so long ago.
How do we thank someone for being imperfect? For leaving behind so much of his essence intact in a place? For inspiring a girl to grow up to be eclectic, proud of the clashing chords of her own personality?
I don’t know the answer. But, sitting in the quiet of his garden, the sky heavy with impending rain, I finally got to say a silent thanks to a man who couldn’t hear me.
I know he heard me anyway.