Thursday, June 26, 2008
In Abbot Hall, the municipal building in my hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts, there hangs a reproduction of the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. The painting hangs there because the rowers of the boat, it is said, were Marbleheaders. It was those stalwart seafarers, it was then known, who could navigate the choppy winter waters of the river.
Having learned this great trivia as a child--that the clever Revolutionary Army crossed the river in the dark of night on Christmas Eve (or so the story rings in my head), and that good old 'headers made it possible--I took great pride in my hometown, and I imagined the treacherous and the icy banks. The river in my mind was as wide as a lake. The opposing banks were as different as blue and red.
And so it wasn't until about the seventh or eighth time that I heard the name of the town "Washington Crossing"--on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey--that I realized that it was Washington Crossing... as in: the place where Washington crossed the Delaware River. Something in my head had made it a train intersection, or a road to D.C.
Maybe it was the name of the Delaware River in the title of the painting--coupled with Washington being the first president and Delaware being the "first state"--maybe that's what led me to think the famous scene should have happened in Delaware. Or somewhere more... historic sounding?
But rural Pennsylvania? ...and New Jersey?
I'm learning more every day.