Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Memory: Washington DC

When I was a senior in high school my family took a long anticipated, much prepared for trip to Washington DC. Typically, our family didn't take big and expensive vacations, usually we'd go camping or drive a day to visit family, so this big cross-country vacation was a really big deal for all of us. Once plane tickets had been purchased, we all dug into books and brochures to research all the things we wanted to see. (Remember, these were the days before Googling it.)

We all wanted to see certain monuments and memorials, such as the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. We also wanted to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and tour Arlington National Cemetery. My parents knew this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip for all of us, so they let each of us kids select a place we wanted to go, and as a family, we would - no complaining allowed. I chose the National Gallery, a large art museum. Kasey chose the Air and Space Museum, and I can't remember what Jen chose. I remember liking the National Gallery well enough, but I remember thinking the Air and Space Museum was by far the better choice. I guess sometimes the 11-year old brother is alright.

After reading about the newly-opened Holocaust Memorial and Museum, my parents decided our family could handle it. Looking back, they did a really good job of preparing us for the museum, telling us it was a very serious and somber place, but also very important. It was definitely all of those things. I think it took us most of an afternoon to get through it and at the end we were all just emotionally and mentally exhausted. There was no talking, no joking, and no smiling that afternoon. There was a lot of reading and watching, and experiencing, and hopefully,  not forgetting. I think that exhibit did exactly what it was set up and designed to do.

One place we visited as almost an afterthought turned out to be one of my favorites. The National Archives is just a small building on the National Mall that doesn't seem all that grand and important from the outside. However, inside, we saw documents that literally changed the world. As a writer, I like to think occasionally I put something out that makes someone think or laugh or view something in a different light. The writers of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights were writing documents that set up a nation. Their words are recited by school children and debated in courts around the country even today. To see their words on crinkled parchment, pressed under light-protective glass, is a humbling, and almost holy experience.

If your family is contemplating a trip to our nation's capitol, I can't recommend it highly enough. I know we fully enjoyed our trip and hope in the future, when our girls are old enough to better understand, to go again.

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