Manse Beginnings

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm jealous of Woodrow Wilson. We both grew up in Presbyterian manses, but the ones he lived in were much nicer than the ones I lived in.

For the uninitiated among you, "manse" is the Presbyterian word for "parsonage."

The first picture shows Wilson's birthplace at Staunton, Virginia. Roland and I toured it on our vacation.

The second picture is the manse my family lived in when I was born. My father took the picture several years after we moved away. I'm standing in front with my mother and brothers.

Not that either Woodrow or I have any memories of our first manse. We both moved before we were old enough to remember anything.

Most of the houses I do remember were small and drafty. The guide at Wilson's birthplace said his next home was even grander than his first.

When I mentioned that Wilson's birthplace wasn't like the manses I grew up in, the guide said that the Presbyterians liked to have nice buildings to show their status in the community. According to the guide, the richer the church, the nicer the manse, and Rev. Wilson was adept at finding the rich congregations.

My father didn't even try. He preferred small churches in small towns or out in the country. And I'm okay with that. Now.

Growing up as a Presbyterian minister's child isn't the only similarity between my life and Woodrow Wilson's. We both went to law school and became lawyers. The main difference is that I was successful at it.

Of course, Woodrow later became President of the United States. Something I'm not the least jealous about.

I'm glad to be living my life rather than his.

But I would have loved to live in a manse like his.

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