Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George-A Love Story

Most of you know the stories about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree (proven to be fiction after all these years!), his acts as general of the colonial troops during the Revolutionary War, and as the Father of our Country.  But how many of you know the love story?  Several years ago my son and I drove from Nebraska to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  On some of the hottest days of that year (and most years) we walked the trails of some of history's greatest legends, including George Washington.  Standing on his lawn overlooking the Potomac River, where he must have stood thousands of times, was awe-inspiring, to say the least.  As a history lover, I can't describe to you the feeling that came to me standing in his "living room" or walking the road from his home to his stables to his tomb.  Wow!

After more than two hours in the sun, I met up with my son in the library/gift shop and came across a book (I always bring home books from our travels) that I didn't expect.  Mary Higgins Clark wrote A Novel of George and Martha Washington:  Mount Vernon Love Story.  This book was first published in 1969 under the title Aspire to the Heavens.  Ms. Clark's interest in George Washington was first sparked by a radio series she was writing in the 1960s, called "Portrait of a Patriot," vignettes of American presidents.  Always a lover of history, she wrote this biographical novel-her first book.  With all events, dates, scenes and characters based on historical research.

It's recent discovery by a Washington family descendant led to its reissue under its new title, Mount Vernon Love Story.

In researching George Washington's life, Ms. Clark was surprised to find the engaging man behind the pious legend.  He was a giant of a man in every way, starting with his physical height.  In an era when men averaged five foot seven inches, he towered over everyone at six foot three.  He was the best dancer in the colony of Virginia.  He was also a master horseman, which was why the Indians gave him their highest compliment:  "He rides his horse like an Indian."

She dispels the widespread belief that although George Washington married an older woman, a widow, his true love was Sally Carey Fairfax, his best friend's wife.  Martha Dandridge Custis was older, but only by three months-she was twenty-seven to his twenty-six when they met.  Mary Higgins Clark describes their relationship from their first meeting, their closeness and his tenderness toward her two children.  Martha shared his life in every way, crossing the British lines to join him in Boston and enduring with him the bitter hardship of the winter in Valley Forge.  As Lady Bird Johnson was never called Claudia, Martha Washington was never known as Martha.  Her family and friends called her Patsy.  George always called her "my dearest Patsy" and wore a locket with her picture around his neck. 

In Mount Vernon Love Story, Mary Higgins Clark tells the story of a rare marriage and brings to life the human side of the man who became the "father of our country."  I would encourage you to find it at your library or book store and read it.  It's a wonderful story for President's Day and for Valentine's Day!

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