Sunday, June 27, 2010

Washington, D.C., one of the world's great cities

This is one of those cities that is simply life-changing to visit. There is so much history, and so much national pride, presence, and meaning. The architecture is magnificent. Everything is imbued with significance. I remember the last time I felt this way -- amazed and awestruck at every turn -- was when I visited New York City as a college student. No wonder these two cities were targeted by terrorists. They are wellsprings of the American experience.

We got an amazing amount accomplished, much of it during long days that started early and ended late. It was all good, though the heat was terribly reminiscent of home, too much so. It hit 98 degrees one day, a record high for this area. This after the huge snowstorm here over the winter.

There is such a wealth of information here. In every museum, you spend hours and feel you still missed so much. It's hard to determine what pace to have. There are areas of each museum which captivated different members of our family. For Dwaine, it was gems in Natural History. For Andrew, the ocean room. Austin, probably the Air and Space museum (he seemed to enjoy most everything). For me, the Holocaust Museum was unexpected. So meaningful and historically significant, and critical for our modern-day understanding. It turned out I already knew the grimmest things, so it was not the visceral shock I had feared. It was such a great learning opportunity. Andrew was fascinated by its many powerful exhibits as well. He read a wonderful children's book, "Milkweed," by Jerry Spinelli, that I'm now reading. It is about a gypsy boy who winds up in the Warsaw Ghetto, so he had learned many things about the Holocaust before visiting the museum.

We missed seeing the Supreme Court; the White House visitors center; the Library of Congress; among many other things. But we saw everything else on our must-see list, and several things that had not been on it till we arrived. We were very fortunate in our timing. It really was as though angels were guiding us. Our "big ticket day" was Thursday, by coincidence, just before the crowds rushed in on Friday. We got tickets to go to the top of the Washington Monument, to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and to tour the Holocaust Museum. We saved Arlington National Cemetery for Saturday, which turned out to be a brilliant choice as everything else was mobbed. Our 15 minutes viewing the House of Representatives in session turned out to be during a vote on a resolution -- so we got to see a hubbub of activity as representatives flooded in to cast their votes. We were in the National Cathedral during a wedding (again, by chance) and heard the organ play the wedding march, and heard a saintly choir sing a hymn. Unbelievable!

My sister and her husband drove out for the weekend, and we got to spend time with them and enjoy some great meals together, my favorite being an Italian restaurant where we kicked back and talked and laughed together.

Visitors from around the world were here touring. The variety of ethnic restaurants is unlike anything I've experienced in any other town. We ate in the Old Post Office food court, after stumbling upon it (again, the angel thing). My sister, a vegetarian, and I discovered an Indian, vegetarian, and non-flaming-hot eatery there, and both of us enjoyed the food immensely. We ate in the Union Station food court and crossed paths with John and Camille, from none other than Floresville, Texas. We actually knew two families from Floresville traveling here at the same time as us; they were one.

How many degrees of separation are there supposed to be between every living thing? What were the chances of us running across each other like that? The coincidences we encountered ("where God chooses to remain anonymous," my friend Karen says) were more than a little eerie.

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