• September 4, 2012

    doing things we never did

    driving around in circles. in an instant, we could tell you what metro stop you needed and how long it would take to walk from there. but when it comes to parking, we feel somewhat useless.

    walking with the seasoned speed the city has taught us, making a beeline for our destination. weaving through families from out of town and honeymooners stopping to peer indecisively at their maps. smiling as we brush past. apologizing. something we would never do during the morning commute.

    slow steps climbing white marble, we give a slight nod of hello to mr lincoln. heading for the quietest spot that will still ensure a view. dangling our feet off the edge. ignoring the excited chatter of a dozen different languages and becoming slightly indignant when children make a slide out of the smooth stone and squeal with delight in the presence of such a hallowed structure. spotlights beaming towards the sky, creating a halo of white light off white stone. this is what makes lincoln and his friends so loved after dark. talking of the purpose of memorials and monuments and remembering those who have come before.

    staying put until a particularly persistent and particularly enormous spider uproots us. settling into a busier spot on the steps next to field-tripping school children more concerned with their pre-teen angst. on the way, I pause to give a more formal hello to mr lincoln, returning to my favorite of his words: with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    fitting my back in the crevice of one of the great white columns to find that rain has begun to fall. not a particularly harsh thunderstorm, but one that has us thankful to be under the protection of a forefather. the spotlights neglect their job of illumination long enough to crystallize the rain and we are able to follow the falling drops almost all the way to the ground.

    talking and talking. for over two hours until our butts are sore from hard stone seats. our eyes weary, our voices cracked. worrying over descending visitors unaware of how marble becomes slick under a thin covering of water. tourists creating dozens of poses while mr washington and his capitol stand perfectly still in the background – glowing and always camera-ready. a newlywed couple ascending the stairs – she, lifting her white gown to reveal red toms. he, gently grasping her elbow in case the rain thwarts their gingerly placed steps. later, they will ask us what time the metro stops running and we will answer instantly, with the proud knowledge of locals.

    finally descending with care, gripping the handrails, determining not to make the mistake of those who have come (and fallen) before. making a slow circle, nodding last regards to mr lincoln and returning to face washington. pausing at the reflecting pool and, as others lay flat on the concrete to get a good shot, teetering on the precipice of water, pretending to be olympic swimmers ready to dive into the fray. endeavoring to remember the words of the patriotic songs of our youth, we make it all the way through “my country tis of thee” and halfway through “yankee doodle dandy” before needing to google the rest.

    returning to the car, anxious to see if we have a parking ticket courtesy of confusing signage characteristic of the district, I wonder aloud how it happened that it took one of us moving 600 miles away to finally do something so quintessentially local.




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