Disclaimer: Facts provided throughout this literary journal may or may not be true. Do not use to reference any relevant information regarding that of the beloved George Washington. Please enjoy!
Saturday February 22, 1738
Garnets and looms do not cease to amaze me, yet, for reasons I cannot explain, my father’s cherry tree is where I write this. My sister Betty, my brothers and I have named him Robbie. The shade of Robbie’s leaves and ants along his rough bark delight me with the simple wonders that can never be explained.
I had to contest physically with Samuel for the spot underneath the tree. He is only four, so we made a compromise quickly before he could muddy his trousers and make our Mother worry. He gets the tree in the mornings, and I will get it everyday after lunch. Augustine, who left home early and only visits on important days like my birthday, gets it never.
My father gave me a hatchet today, my sixth birthday, and my Mother gave me this pad of paper and a pair of riding boots. The boots squeeze my toes too much and I don’t like how they feel, but the hatchet fits my hands perfectly and makes me feel powerful.
A hatchet in my hands and some muscle in my fingers; nothing else can stop me now!
Sunday February 23, 1738
Went to Sunday mass this morning where Father told the minister how much he cherished his cherry tree. When Samuel asked Father why he liked the tree so much, Father responded, “Samuel, my boy, it listens to me,” and patted him on the head harder than a naughty horse.
I went to the cherry tree this afternoon after lunch, and with milk and bread crumbs still jostling their way into my stomach, I asked the tree if it could listen to me. And because I cannot tell a lie, I will tell you, it said nothing.
Wednesday February 26, 1738
I plan on chopping some twigs tomorrow. I have my eyes set on the uneven branches of the cherry tree--they leave sun marks on Samuel’s rosy pale cheeks, and I would not think he wants to look like a wild tiger--so I will give him a full sun mark. He sleeps unknowingly underneath the sparse shadows of Robbie’s shadow right now.
Thursday February 27, 1738
Raining. I don’t like rain.
Drooping. Robbie is drooping.
Mother told me to clean the floors now that Augustine has left. I happily obliged, giving the wet mop to Samuel and dry sponge to Betty while Mother took care of John in the nursery. Samuel said I should be leading troops one day, and Robbie, drooping from all the rain, looked happy when he said it.
Sunday March 2, 1738
It is still raining outside, but we all had to go to mass today since Father is the churchwarden and wants us to make Virginia proud. I was forced to wear the boots after Samuel ratted me out on where I was hiding them. Then he ratted me out on where I was hiding myself after running around the house, screaming because I don’t like the boots, rain or Samuel.
During the sermon, Mother had whispered to us that she wanted us to pray together under the cherry tree once we came home. She wanted us to pray that our Uncle Lewis found his way to the colonies and Mount Vernon after being prosecuted by the British. The British. Somebody really ought to stop them.
Then we came out of the chapel and realized it was still raining. Mother then left the umbrellas in the frontyard and told us to gather in the kitchen while Father lit a candlelight. Betty pulled me aside after our prayer and told me, “We prayed inside the house, inside the kitchen, and inside our hearts, brother. Yet somehow I know that Uncle Lewis will not be coming. Why is that?”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know what she meant.
Maybe I’ll know the answer when I’m all grown up, but for now I simply told her, “Look at Robbie out the window. He might as well be dead right now, but when the rain goes and the winds end: he’ll be alive and standing in the Americas.”
I am a year older than her, so my words tend to sound more mature than they are confused when I say them. She nodded and went to brush her teeth.
Tuesday March 4, 1738
At last, no rain! No rain! No rain!
Betty says she is “elated yet belated,” and I have barely an idea what she means, her vocabulary not being the strongest for a five-year-old. She stayed inside to jump rope in front of John’s crib, however, and Samuel and I played catch outside. This being said, I have no other new words to tell you.
Samuel fell in a mud puddle this morning, so he rested beside the cherry tree, watching the clouds blanket in the sky and pointing to the ones that looked like bears or whales. He was going to leave the shade by noon, but I let him stay because I wasn’t sure if Mother would’ve liked to see him come inside with wet and muddy trousers. We shared an apple. I went inside to find a knife for cutting it, but when I came back, Samuel was holding my hatchet!
“Hack it through the ground, Georgie!” he said, holding the hatchet dangerously over his head. I don’t like it when he calls me Georgie, but I also don't like it when he holds sharp things over his head, so I made sure to get that thing away from him as soon as I saw it.
I told him no, but he didn’t listen, and I must admit part of me did want to use my hatchet. Sweat started to drip out of my forehead, and my fingers trembled. I shook my head no.
“C’mon General Georgie!” He bounced up and down in his muddy and grass-stained pants. Oh, infantile Samuel. You may be my brother, but sometimes you can make me do the worst things.
I took the hatchet and struck it through the ground, reaping up worms and grass roots with every strike. It felt good, I have to say. I have no anger or bad feelings towards anyone, not even Samuel, but it felt good.
Wednesday March 5, 1738
Had to stay inside this morning while Samuel played with Robbie since Mother was upset I cut up holes through the ground yesterday. Betty let me come to her spot in the nursery so John and I could watch her jump rope. It was rather mundane, but she seemed to enjoy it, so I sat in Father’s armchair and watched. Mother came in later and said I looked just like Father when he had important work to do and let me out early because of it.
Cut some twigs and made a bouquet for Mother out of their flowers. She said they were lovely, but told me to be careful around Father’s tree. After all, looking like Father when he is busy isn’t enough for me to be Father.
Friday March 14, 1738
Samuel and I chop twigs and square the bushes everyday before lunch. I have stopped cutting holes through the ground, but I still hold my hatchet strong when I strike. We are running out of things to chop, and lying under Robbie is getting boring.
Monday March 17, 1738
Forgot to write in you yesterday, but something important happened yesterday that I have to write down. My father, the honest and kind churchwarden, went missing. One of Father’s friends from the parish council came to our family farm to tell us the news. “I regret to inform you, dear friends and family, but Augustine Washington Sr. has gone missing last night.” The unfledged man took off his cap and made a genuflect kneel. “He was last seen at the vestry, ma’am, at nine o’ clock. We have sent off a search party of about thirty to forty horses.”
“Who is we?” Mother cut him off but let him in as it was well into the evening and getting cold out.
“The entire church but their wives and children.” He took off his woolen cap and sat down, dusting dirt and other stuff from his pants.
She looked down at me and said to get John from the nursery for it would be a while. She then cooked a jar of warm milk while the man who looked more like the son of a minister instead of an actual church member yabbered on. I listened intensely, with purpose, but it was hard to distinguish what any of his words really meant. Betty started to take care of John on her own, and Samuel kept asking me what the man, eating our chocolate chip cookies, was saying.
“I haven’t an idea where he went, missus,” he said through breaths of cookie crumbs.
A bolt of lightning struck, and the rain started pouring across our windows at that time, so Mother tightened the latch between the pairs of windows and gave us reassuring kisses. “It is rather cold out… and the rain… young sir, would you like to stay the night with us?” she asked and another bolt of lighting struck the ground.
The man made a joke that it sounded like a hatchet striking the ground. I winced. Mother gave me a playful look before showing him to one of our guest bedrooms. He left his shoes by the front door, though.
Tuesday March 18, 1738
I cut the tree. I cut the cherry tree. I cut Robbie.
Augustine, the one who is eighteen but thinks he is forty-three, has come by again to say his condolences. He had a whole speech written, too. He had gotten the news early and came this morning when the man, Benjamin Boone supposedly, was taking a bath in the outdoor bathroom. Benjamin came out of the bath, ready to leave and already folding the towel Mother had lent him when he cried, “Auggie!”
Samuel tittered behind me while Augustine’s eyes widened.
“Benjamin? Benjamin,” he said, not very sure if he had used the right name. “Benjamin, did they make you a messenger?”
“They did,” Benjamin was ecstatic. “How’d you…” and the conversation went on from there.
Benjamin’s hours of being a welcomed guest were long overdue, but Mother kept cooking for those two who would have left once nightfall fell, anyway.
Betty and John resumed their daily schedule in the nursery with her beaded rope and his wooden crib, and Samuel went too because he didn’t want to fall in the mud again. I was the only one outside this morning, Augustine and Benjamin still complaining about the price of tea from inside the kitchen windows with the accompaniment of Mother.
This time I was mad. This time I was mad, mad at Mother for giving chocolate chip cookies out to strangers, mad at Augustine who wouldn’t be here if Father was, mad at Betty for always saying confusing things, and mad at Samuel for not playing with me. I hit the tree.
I hit the tree with the hatchet I didn’t even know was in my hands, and I hit it hard. I hit the tree so hard my bones were vibrating and my skull was reverberating. And I hit, and I hit, and I hit. Robbie was no more by the end of all those hits.
Wednesday March 19, 1738
This will be the last time I write in you for a long time. I have been grounded for two weeks.
This morning, Father woke me up from where I slept in the nursery--however I got there. He explained what had happened to him and asked if we were okay. His horse had hurt its leg on the ride back home, but it was dark out so made camp there in the Virginia woods.
Augustine and Benjamin both left for home while I was asleep. Betty told me Augustine had tried to wake me to say good-by but that Mother wouldn’t let him; I was too far away in Dreamland.
Father had taken the back door to get inside, so there was no way he could have seen the little remains of Robbie. I knew he’d find out either way, even if I could possibly blame this one on the rain. The rain and a dubious strike of lightning or any other ---
No, no. That isn’t what I did.
I put my hatchet on Father’s credenza and asked if I could talk to him. Betty gave me one of one of those sisterly glares that could make anyone regret doing anything while I fidgeted with my fingers and popped every knuckle there was. Sat down on the stool that makes me look small and told Father what happened, no embellishments or anything. Because there was nothing that could embellish it.
Am sitting in my room now where Father will take away my hatchet, journal and other belongings in a couple of hours, after I’ve told Betty, Samuel and Mother what happened. I know I’ve done the right thing, but it still feels weird.
Wednesday April 2, 1738
Father has bought another tree; this time an apple tree. He planted it in the yard and said a quick prayer for it. I was watching from the window and had come outside to do the same when he placed a hand on my shoulder, looking beyond my blue eyes. “George,” he said, “If you let me down, I will forgive you. But if you let anyone else down, they will not. Please, son, do not let them down.”
And somehow, some way, I know exactly who them is.