When we were kids, on many occasions on which we might tell my father we wanted something or had done something we thought he’d find amazing, he’d say, “So’s your Uncle Louie.” In later years, after my brother Keith’s children were born and because I used the line on them, they called me Uncle Louie; although, for reasons that remain uncertain, they always pronounced it Uncle Loo-vey. Later still, when my own sons were born, I used the line on them, too. Yet for all the history packed into that expression, I never knew its derivation … until recently.
My friend, fellow BIZCATALYST 360˚ scribe, and intellectual mentor, Yonason Goldson, published a post called, “Visionaries and Ideology: A Study in Contrasts”. It’s about a trip Yonason and his wife took to New York City. In it, of his emotional visit to Federal Hall, Yonason wrote:
“The site of George Washington’s inauguration provided as emotional an experience as the 9/11 museum. Here was a shrine to visionary ideology, not distorted into evil but elevated to the highest imaginable strata of human aspiration. Here, a fledgling nation conceived in the minds of practical dreamers took its incipient steps toward the lofty goals of justice, virtue, and equality before the law in a true meritocracy. Here, the noblest impulses of man forged a society out of shared values that had never been applied, never been attempted, never been imagined beyond the musings of political fantasy.”
Yonason’s musings led me to recall similarly reverent writing about Freedom Hall in Jonathan Cahn’s novel, The Harbinger. (As the anti-spoiler, there’s no way in the world I’m going to tell you what happens in that book. You can find out for less than ten bucks if you have a Kindle.) And all that reverence compelled me to dig more deeply into George Washington and the fateful walk down Wall Street to his inauguration, in Federal Hall, as the nation’s first President.
The inauguration processional was led, of course, by George and his wife, Martha. The two of them were joined by George’s brother, Louie, who carried the hatchet with which six-year-old George had chopped down the cherry tree on the property of his childhood home in Ferry Farm, Virginia. Since George was taking a pretty heavy oath that day, Louie brought along the hatchet just in case George might be tempted to … well … you know.
As the processional approached 26 Wall Street, George hawked a huge wad of Juicyfruit he’d been chewing to keep his wooden teeth fresh right out on the sidewalk. Louie spontaneously exclaimed, “Oh, my God, George! That is SO gross! Pick that up right now!” George did as he was told. (Louie didn’t see George stick the gum on the front of a parking meter.) And the rest of the day went off without a hitch.
Though George, The Father of Our Country, had fathered no biological children of his own, Martha had four children from her previous marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. George adopted them and treated them as his own, even though one of them was dead by the time he married Martha, and another one died shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, despite the lack of blood relations, George always introduced Louie to the children as The Uncle of Our Country.
One day, on a journey of reminiscence from Mount Vernon to New York City, George decided to take the children by Federal Hall to show them the place in which his inauguration had taken place. As they approached the steps to the hallowed building, George aimed a sizeable gout of Teaberry toward the gutter, but it fell short and stuck to the curb.
The two children screamed in horrified unison, “Ew, Dad! That’s nasty! We want you to pick that up!”
George replied, “So’s your Uncle Louie.”
The rest, as they say, is O’Brien family history.