Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mr. Harms Goes to Washington..

...along with Miss Harms and Miss Schlueter.
Relaxed travelers that they are, Lizzie and Gabe pass the time before takeoff playing GoFish. Across the aisle, Abbie and Blake are already deep into their portable electronic devices.  All three kids are chomping gum, having learned from experience..or at least the advice of older siblings...that airplane trips are hard on the ears.  Lizzie and Abbie have tiny square notepads on which to record their upcoming adventures. I hear Lizzie say, "All the dots for the 'i's' are hearts and all the o's have smiley faces." Her chronicle will obviously include emojis.

The geography of the Mall is the stage of our week : the scaffolding of the Capitol on one side and the compass needle of Washington's Monument  on the other. Three kids means three different ideas of what to see, but these guys are used to sharing and a satisfactory plan of attack is created over pasta.

What does a seven year old see in Washington, D.C.?

A thousand miles of wide stone borders to run along like a balance beam.  A dozen reflecting pools and fountains to lean over, lean into, and befriend the ducks paddling in.  Hundreds of  marble steps in and outside of majestic buildings to count, up and down, and then report triumphantly on the accomplishment of climbing.
They are unexcited by the prospects of policy and politicians, but they are patient while the adults speechify and listen, either reading, scribbling, or taking a power nap.  During one meeting Lizzie leans over and whispers to me, "When they talk about Democrats, do they mean the bug?"

As befits children of a greenhouse, the kids concentrate intently on the Plant Hunter's Journal they collect at the desk of the National Botanical Garden, filling out most of the blanks and picking their favorite plants from each of the greenhouse biomes.
 We spend a pleasant hour in the National Gallery among the French painters where Gabe exhibits a keen eye, finding the duck in the reeds a hunter is stalking and the monuments in the background of a Parisian street scene.  All three are fascinated by the notion that Van Gogh painted himself....

Lizzie finds her moccasins just inches from the front door of the Museum of the American Indian.
 The kid's exhibit gives them a chance to stamp their passports by balancing a kayak, weaving a basket, listening to bird calls, and visiting a tepee.  Abbie looks askance at her bison chili, but Liz and Blake chow down an entire plate of buffalo short ribs and fry bread.

We really never see the White House, but the afternoon we visit Mt. Vernon is gloriously sunny and warm.  Transported to the 18th century, this kind of living history is perfect for the imaginations of  youngsters and oldsters alike.

 We talk about all the visitors an isolated farm like Mt. Vernon would have and all the bedrooms it took to house them.  Gabe wants to know how old  Gen. Washington was when he died and is worried about how he got so sick from being outside in the rain. We walk to the edge of the lawn and look out over the same view of broad river and densely forested hills that George Washington saw from his front porch.  As they climb up the brick wall and sit dangling their legs over the side (any wall is fair game if you're seven) both Abbie and Gabe declare they will move here when they are grown and build houses across the river so they can have the same view.  If they do, I say, I'll certainly come visit....

Lizzie does cartwheels on George Washington's lawn.

Along with all the walking, all the gift shops, several lost and found souvenirs and a half dozen smashed pennies, there are serious and lovely moments that I will always remember.  After a long day of travel, I follow the kids up the marble steps in the dark to the somber interior of the Lincoln Memorial.  Abbie finds Mr. Lincoln rather frightening, saying his eyes seem to be following her around.  All three of them gravitate to the Gettysburg Address and stand; Abbie reads aloud and the sound of her young voice navigating the solemn text brings tears to my eyes. Each child wants a picture taken in front of the carved document. Gabe asks if we can go read the other wall and we stand before the Second Inaugural until all three children have finished and we hurtle down the stairs in the dark back to the bus.

Of such things are memories made.

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