Hotter than a firecracker yesterday, the key being to get out early and then get inside.
We first visited Arlington to see the final resting place for Robert Todd Lincoln and his family. Relevance revealed in a moment.
Next stop, the U.S. Botanical Garden. On Monday morning, the better half handed me the Style section of The Washington Post and said - Can we go see to the U.S. Botanic Garden and see this, the world’s largest flower?
Reminded of our visit on Sunday to Baltimore’s lovely Conservatory, my initial thought was -- isn’t this like having chicken for lunch and dinner?
But after reading the article about the plant they call the titan arum, I was in.
The excitement surrounding the plant is not so much its size as its smell. The Post’s headline said:
The “dead elephant” in the room.
The world’s largest flower is about to stink up the Botanic Garden. Folks are thrilled.
Among gotta-see-it geeks like us, this quickly became Washington’s version of “Kate Wait.” Any minute now, the article said. Intrigued followers watched the live cam and tweeted things like – “can't wait for the #TitanArum to bloom, gonna go smell that stinky plant.”
Certainly not when we were there.
Curious, I asked the docent. He told me “three to four days away.” We left disappointed but glad we got to see it up close.
Up “The Hill” we walked, the heat reaching the low 90s. Relief came at the Library of Congress, the mammoth block of ice called the Madison building. At noon, we took in Jason Emerson’s excellent presentation on Robert T. Lincoln (Giant in the Shadows, The Life of Robert T. Lincoln).
Emerson, a Lincoln family scholar, began by noting that Robert never called himself Todd, always went by Robert T. The last full-length biography was written fifty years ago. Emerson spent 10 years researching his subject and provides the definitive account.
During Q&A, I asked the author about his subject’s final resting place. That was why we went to Arlington Cemetery to see the impressive family sarcophagus, which is located near the Taft family site. Robert Lincoln’s wife is buried there, along with their three children. It had been Robert’s desire to end up in Illinois. Emerson said Mary Harlan had some divine intervention, and arranged with Arlington for her husband to be interred there. Since Robert was Secretary of War, the request sailed through.
Emerson mixed in good humor and clever observations. His subject spent more time in Washington than most realize. Along with his counterpart at State, James Blaine, Robert helped run the country when President Garfield was shot in 1881. One of Emerson’s great discoveries was coming across Lincoln’s diary that fully detailed his time in the White House when Garfield was laid up.
Robert loved his native land and the family estate Hildene in Vermont, but like many who come here, he found he could not stay away. The family lived near 30th and N. Street in Georgetown (The Laird-Dunlop House) After her husband’s death in 1926, Mary Harlan Lincoln lived there until she passed in 1937. When Robert was appointed as Secretary of War, he rented a house on Mass Ave, “fronting Thomas Circle.”
With a first class approach and stepping lightly, Emerson discussed the rocky relationship between Robert and his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln. I’ll leave that for others to discuss.
All I know is Mary Todd Lincoln felt more sorrow than most of us can ever imagine. In 1850, her second son died at age 3. In 1862, her third son died at age 11. For the next three years, she watched her husband age too quickly as he dealt with the Civil War death toll that reached past the half million mark. Then, just days after the war ended, she watched in horror as President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater, and passed to the ages the next morning. On top of all that, her third oldest son died at age 18 in 1871.
When Mary died in 1882, the sole survivor was Robert Todd, the oldest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. He too had suffered, losing two brothers, his father, then his mother. He also had to live with hearing all his life – there goes the son of President Lincoln.
But he found his own way and lived a good life. I just wonder what he thought of Washington’s hot summers…