My Summer with Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

For many of us, sitting in an outdoor amphitheater listening to music or watching a performance with our kids is a summer ritual.

For me, I was always on the other side — onstage, sweating, singing, dancing, worrying about an upcoming costume change or yukking it up with my fellow actors backstage making sure I didn’t miss my cue. That’s how I got to spend a lovely and exceptionally warm summer with Abraham Lincoln in the woods of southern Indiana.

Even down to the stovepipe hat, the man looked like Lincoln. Tall, stooped, with limbs hanging off his torso like wet branches on a tree, he was doing more than portraying a character. He was embodying him. The rest of us were mere background actors. And each night, I was thrilled to watch the seats fill up with families anticipating his appearance.

I was only 21, fresh out of college and hoping this summer stock production might be the kick-start to a theatrical career. It wasn’t. But I did learn a lot that summer; lessons that I dwell on more and more now that I have children.

First, that summer was about indulging my youth. There are few instances in our lives when we can do what we want with few limitations. The post-college years are one of those times. Some backpack through Europe; others join the Peace Corps and help the poor and struggling in Africa. I decided to spend my time performing in Indiana and I got just as much out of my post-college experience as anyone else. I was young. I had time to spare. And I was an actor earning a (meager) paycheck. Whenever my children crave time to see what the world has in store for them, I will remember my summer on the stage.

Second, more than college, that summer taught me responsibility. Sure, in school I had to get to class and graduate but this experience was my first foray into the working world after earning my diploma. It felt more mature, more grown up. I was earning a paycheck and was responsible for my own lodging. I couldn’t just skip class and sleep in all day. I had to earn my keep. My fellow actors and performers depended on me to catch them during the dance routines and to hit the harmonies in the songs. I needed to do my job. What an important lesson for a young person to learn.

Third, it taught me to give my kids the time and space to indulge their curiosities and discover their loves. After I graduated my parents could have harped on me to find a career, go to law school or find some job to start paying off my student loans. But they didn’t. They supported me in my quest to try the “theater thing” and decide if it was a path that I wanted to pursue. Ultimately, I didn’t and my summer with Lincoln helped me discover that.

As Honest Abe once said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Spending three months learning and living with Lincoln added indispensable memories to my years.


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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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