We are back from a spring break trip to Washington DC. It was great except it snowed the first day, the last day and rained the others. Wait, there was ONE day we had clear skies. So much for “Spring”.
Fortunately it was the day we walked on the Mall. From Arlington Cemetery to the Spy Museum.
The trip was meaty. Lots going on. Sights of historical significance, Ford’s theatre, great food. Red Hen was the best dinner of the trip. Great architecture, show me the brick!. Kafe Bohem, sigh, I miss the great breakfasts. Seeing old friends.
Loved not driving most of the time. Metro, I loves ya.
But, more than once I thought, are my kids ready for this? Moments where I thought, “I DID THE RIGHT THING”. When Vivien was transfixed by the Lincoln Memorial and read his speeches carved into the wall. When I said, “this is where Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a dream speech’ and she didn’t run and scowl, but stopped and took a picture there. Touching how many parents are doing the same thing. After the memorial Vivien was begging for a hot chocolate, “we must keep going.” cried crazy mom. My sister Cecily, who traveled with us knew better. “I’ll get you one” as she helped my limping 8 year old to a warm coco. I walked along the Vietnam memorial overhearing parents say to their kids, “you see it was a time of great unrest…”
What is the right age to take this in? Or is it in dribs and drabs? Certainly when I lost Rex in the spy museum ( an over rated for profit venture) I thought, I was wrong to come. When he ran up the down escalator in the Metro I thought “too young”. But, if I wait till he is ready for knowledge and travel Vivien will be a jaded teen lost to me.
Certainly a highlight was visiting the White House. Had to pull some strings to get in their and even so there was a long, cold wait to get in. Not like the ’90’s where I had a friend who work in the White House and I was waved in more than once with a only a look at my license. At one point Rex started to go under the velvet rope, but a secret service man scolded him and he shrank back. One of the many times I was fine with a stranger reprimanding my son. “Go for it, I need the help.”
DC , like many American cities of late, has improved. We we rented a home in an area some friends were worried about. A mixed neighborhood that had seen riots/uprisings in the ’60’s, crack in the 80’s. But, now the historical structures of Ledroit Park can shine and it’s lovely. It’s near Howard University and we had occasion to visit their ER for a minor problem and they were great. It was far nicer than any ER around LA. I like feeling like I live in a place when I visit. I walked thru the snow to a grocery store. I would stay there again for sure.
One day we rented a car and went to Mt. Vernon.
A place I remembered from visiting with my dad when I was 9. Since then they have added a memorial to the slaves that toiled there. They have also added a video presentation with of all people Pat Sajak telling visitors what to see at George Washington’s home. Was Vanna not avail? “Don’t forget to see the slave quarters and where they stored the tropical plants.” My sister leaned in, “because there is a real moral equivalency.” When the five minute Wheel of Washington was done Rex said,
“He was nice. But, he seems like a reporter.” Close Rex. Yes, hundreds of years of slavery is not Pat Sajak’s fault. But, I was getting irate at the founding fathers. Um, what was that about independence, rights of man?
It was raining so I didn’t make it to the slave quarters. Rex’s shoes and pants were soaked in rain and mud. He was gleefull. We stood before George Washington’s old tomb and he said, “mommy, I got to go pee.”
“I can’t”. Pause. Then he ran off splashing more in the mud. Well, maybe it was fitting.
Fortunately, Walmart is close and I ran in and got him a whole new outfit as we were headed to meet friends for a nice dinner.
One key note about air travel with kids, if they don’t have individual screens on the plane, forget it. We didn’t have them going, but did coming back and it made a huge difference. I wish we could make our reservations based on this. I can handle the crap food, but kid climbing on me is tougher. Course one consequence was I watched “12 years a slave” on the plane. Woof. Brutal. When we got home I had insomnia and stayed up reading slave memoirs online. The sexual exploitation alone makes me marvel that black people didn’t rise up and kill all white people. Jefferson, sneer. He allowed his own children to be enslaved. They got to be freed when he died, that’s the bone he threw them.
When I went to Europe I ruminated about the holocaust. I know, I could walk any area near me and think of the Native Americans killed and run off their land. Sadly, man’s humanity to man is too clear.
So, in the end it is dribs and drabs for my kids and for me. You know history, but at different moments facts and sensory collide to make it more real.