Remember the story of little Georgie Washington who was so enamored with his new hatchet that he went around hacking everything in the yard? Including his father’s beloved cherry tree. When the father demanded to know who chopped down his tree, little Georgie fessed up, “I cannot tell a lie. It was me.” And his father embraced him, saying his honesty was worth more than any tree.
Well, prepare for a disappointment. Just like Columbus as a hero and Santa and such, it turns out that it probably wasn’t true. Somebody lied. Maybe the same guy who actually did chop down that cherry tree. Who knows? It was a long time ago and their were no Instagrams to provide immediate evidence.
But with most San Francisco kids off from school this week, I have a theory. I think the story goes like this:
“George as a young teen went out to eat one night at a Chinese restaurant and fell in love with the waitress. Because mixed relationships were discouraged— someone who ate with a fork and another who ate with chopsticks— they started meeting secretly behind the cherry tree. When Lunar New Year came, George wanted to give his new love a gift. The cherry tree was in bloom, the pink blossoms were close to the coveted red colors of the Chinese New Year celebration and they both had many fond memories of their time lying under the tree. Since the florist was closed, he decided to chop down the whole tree to give it to her as a gift. He traveled 9 miles from his log cabin where he could barely read the heart-shaped candies he bought with secret messages like “B My Valentine” and delivered the tree and the candies and some Valentine fortune cookies, returned the extra penny the candy-maker had given him by mistake and went home with a full heart. (One version reports that he also did extensive research and learned how to sing” Sakura” to her until she politely told him that this was a Japanese song. Oops!)
When he got home, he overheard his father fuming about the tree and decided to get out of Dodge. So he grabbed his skis, returned to his beloved and took off for a week of glorious skiing until things cooled off. When he got home, his father had forgotten all about the tree because he had hurt his back shoveling the driveway. And then George became President.”
And that’s why this week, the SF Unified School District kids get off school for Chinese New Year, the private school kids go skiing, the Post Office is closed on President’s Day and everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day. Four-in-one!! All because of George’s secret love affair with a Chinese waitress, whose name has remained anonymous (though some conjecture she changed it to Martha and forbid all portrait painters in her house, worried that future fanatics in Alabama would stop using dollars to protest their mixed marriage.)