Lincoln statue

Revered as he is, Abe Lincoln never has been honored with an official federal holiday.

There has never been a doubt in my mind that the very best month of all is February. It’s not absolutely perfect weather-wise, of course, but I’m basically an indoors kind of girl so I can easily overlook that part. And, besides, it’s the last full month of winter and spring is on its way!

I first loved February because it’s my birthday month. And then I loved it because it’s not like other months — it doesn’t always have the same number of days. And sometimes, like in 2018, it doesn’t even have its own full moon. Usually my birthday is on the last day, but sometimes it’s not. And, thank goodness, it’s the shortest month no matter what.

Also, it’s the month that’s all about valentines and special candies and secret admirers. As if that weren’t enough, when I was a girl we had two (count ’em, two!) days off from school — Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday. I still think of the 12th and the 22nd as holidays. Just one “Presidents’ Day” is wrong. All wrong.

Since passage of the Uniform Public Holiday Act back in 1968 (51 years ago! Wow!) when most of our federal holidays were moved to Mondays, I’ve consoled myself that at least all the presidents are being honored now, even though Washington and Lincoln no longer have their own days. How wrong I was!

Just recently — I think I was feeling balky at giving our current president the same tip o’ the hat that those icons of my childhood got — I found to my amazement that it’s not “Presidents’ Day” at all. Officially, it is “Washington’s Birthday.” And, Lincoln never did get federal recognition, not even back in the day — it was only certain states that honored him on his Feb. 12 birthday! Who knew?

I’m not clear how the “Presidents’ Day” moniker came into being — probably a marketing ploy for all those sales that pop up every time we have a three-day weekend. I was relieved on the one hand — you know that tip o’ the hat thing — but really saddened on the other. I loved hearing the story of Honest Abe, walking miles to borrow a book only to have it ruined in the rain, and how he worked for three full days to earn the seventy-five cents to pay for it.

And the story about George Washington and the cherry tree. Who can forget his answer when he was caught? “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.” I think we knew, even then, that the stories were apocryphal — though we couldn’t have used that particular word to describe them. The stories were right up there with the Uncle Remus tales and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen — providing a moral compass that has been guiding most of us ever since.

There are other sorts of compasses at work during February — those internal ones that still guide the flora and fauna of our lives. In February, there are still ducks and brant in “Little Lake” (named by neighbor Tucker in honor of my dad) out in our meadow. There are Canada geese in the big lake near Willard’s Bench and this year they’ve adopted a snow goose who has been hanging out with them for more than a month now. The eagles put on a daily show as they soar circles over the village and sing their mating songs from the Monterey cypress trees on Territory Road. There are patches of brilliant blue in the sky almost every day.

Yes, besides it being the time that I can tell the world I’ve survived one more year, February holds a gazillion promises. February is when the crocuses poke up. And the daffodils and hyacinths are making headway, as well. The rhododendrons are in bud, the lilacs are leafing out, and there will be camellias in time for my birthday.

When I was young, I always hoped for one more bonus during my birth month — a February snowstorm. A few more days off from school and time to make a snowman, maybe. I don’t remember if my wish ever came true. Now… I’m content to enjoy the warmth of my fireside, nodding over a good book and secure in the fact that telling lies is bad, honesty is the best policy, and spring is on its way. February! Short, sweet, snuggly February! It’s definitely my favorite!

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