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Presidential bedfellows

Winter nights are perfect for cuddling up with books about past presidents.

Scott Wallace - staff

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In one of the early winters of my marriage, I shared my bed not only with my wife, but with Harry S. Truman, Missouri's favorite son.

Each evening, as wind rattled the windows of our modest house, my wife would slip under the comforter with a copy of "Truman," David McCullough's mammoth, award-winning biography of the straight-talking commander in chief. Competing with the 33rd president of the United States proved difficult if not impossible.

I might sink into the pillow and offer a casual anecdote about something funny I'd said at lunch, but it was no use. My wife, pleasantly oblivious to my self-serving narrative, was already arm in arm with Truman as he took the oath of office to lead the nation.

If I had a question about our weekend plans or the size of the gas bill, I knew I'd better wait until morning. My wife, perched over Truman's shoulder as he fired Douglas MacArthur, would not have heard me if I'd bellowed the national anthem.

And how could I hope to steal a kiss to warm the winter night when my wife was breathlessly waiting for Truman to outwit Thomas Dewey in the squeaker election of 1948?

Truman eventually migrated from my wife's nightstand to mine, as I realized that if I could not beat Harry, I might as well join him. So began what has become a tradition of bringing presidents to bed with us each winter. One can read presidential biography at any time of year, I suppose, but there's something about dark, cold nights that seems especially conducive to the longer view.

The chilly weather just beyond our bedroom window is a perfect complement to the cooler perspective of presidential history. The presidents waiting for my wife and me at the close of a January day have fought their last political battles, so we can usually greet them with quiet magnanimity as we flip on the lamp and slide under the quilt.

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