"O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!" - William Shakespeare
Imagine the mess...
Sawdust, splinters, shattered branches, scattered leaves blown here and there, grassy knees, clay-soiled cuffs, dirty boots, forensic evidence on the axe handle and blade, and (of course)...cherry stains everywhere. I cannot tell a lie -- if I, as a kid, had cut down a cherry tree (or any tree for that matter) in the vicinity of my childhood home, I'd certainly be remembered for it, too.
But, alas, the tale of young George and the slaughtered cherry tree just happens to be one of the most fabricated myths in American history. The story first appeared in Mason Locke Weems' book "A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits, of General George Washington," and then again in his "The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen"...whew.
In actuality, Washington was an exceptionally dreary yet gallant first President. He personified many of the 18th Century's absurd patrician "virtues," yet surprisingly lacked the grandiosity and courage one might imagine of such a prestigious historical figure. (Perhaps a gutsy General, but an otherwise dull kinda' guy.)
In an attempt to make the First President's gravy -- so to speak -- thicker, Weems, it seems, cooked-up a few Revolutionary legends with dreams of selling more books (remember, he wrote 200 years before there were Oprah or Jon Stewart to help hawk his hardbacks). Listen to this... "'George,' said his father, 'Do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree yonder in the garden? ...George cried out, 'I can't tell a lie, Pa...you know I can't tell a lie.'"
But despite all the tall tales, we still honor George Washington, especially this month (his birthday was February 22). Some admire him as the brave general, who, against all odds, successfully led a rag-tag militia of Colonials to triumph in the long, messy war to break with the British. Others think highly of him because he sailed unchartered waters as the first leader of the newly formed 13 United States of America, and yet others reverently cast him as "The Father" among the Founding Fathers of our Country.
Once he finished serving his country, however, he gathered Martha and his wooden teeth and hightailed it back to Mount Vernon, where he retired to gentlemanly farming. The endlessly reluctant politician washed his hands of politics.
And just like George, our hands, whether used for chopping down cherry trees or cleansing them of any kind of mess, are the most nimble appendages we have. In fact, our opposable thumbs are what separate us from other life forms (that, and our ability to accessorize of course -- from tri-corner hats and powdered wigs to Manolo Blahniks and bling-bling!). With our dexterous digits we feel the elements, and through touch we are able to assemble and react physically to the tactile world. We make manifest our dreams with our hands and likewise leave behind our fingerprints upon the world.
Conversely, sometimes the world leaves its mark on us. So whether you're picking cherries fresh from the tree, freezing them for later, canning them, packing them into a pie, pitting them for homemade jam, gobbling them up, or chopping down their tree (not recommended!) -- the best and safest way to remove those crimson spots is to just rub fresh lemon on your hands.
Any hands, be they George's or Martha's or yours, can be fruit-stain free. Don't become a modern day Lady Macbeth by letting your horrendous hands get the best of you. A few drops of lemon juice and...out, damned spot!
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