George Birthington’s Washday



by David Van Alstyne
CNS – Creative News Service

In heretofore unseen fits of passion, normally good-natured historians have been breaking into fistfights recently over the birthdate, and even the correct name, of the father of our country.

The maelstrom was ignited by a recent discovery, in the attic at Mt. Vernon, of an old daybook containing work assignments for the involuntary household help (sometimes insensitively referred to by us as “slaves”). This ledger apparently dates from the early childhood of George Washington (or whatever his name was) before he had grown big enough to wield a hatchet.

The problem lies in a surprising notation wherein February 22 was clearly set aside not for the boy’s birthday, as tradition would have it, but as the day for little George's annual bath.

What could this mean? Less volatile pundits at least agree on two possibilities: either that

1.) his parents, with typical early American resourcefulness, thought, “Birthday? Birthday suit. Hmm. Yes! Let us bathe the lad upon his birthday. Thus we’ll not forget to do it at least yearly, whether he needeth it or not,” and the routine recording of this in the daybook was rendered slightly askew by someone’s dyslexia; or, more embarrassing,

2.) that the notation was correct, and we have mistakenly made a national holiday not of George Washington’s Birthday, but of what was actually just the Washday of some local kid named George Birthington.


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