Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day Two in D.C.

On our second day, we started out at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. After enjoying the movie Julie & Julia,this was a highlight for Papa Rooster and me:

It's Julia Child's actual kitchen, which she donated along with all her pots, pans and kitchen implements. (There is a video of her explaining the uses for some of them, including one that "is such a pretty little thing.  I"ve kept it all these years because it's so charming, but I have no idea what it's for.")  The clear plastic wall we are looking through was a regular wall in her home--and it's right behind you, at the museum, with all the skillets and pans hanging on it (behind glass, of course).

Other highlights included the badly tattered flag that inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the collection of dresses worn by First Ladies to Inaugural Balls (I loved Nancy Reagan's one-shoulder sheath), Kermit the Frog, Dorothy's ruby slippers, a phaser from Star Trek, the C3PO costume from  Star Wars, a flying Dumbo car from Disneyland that perhaps I rode in when I was five years old, and so much other wonderful Americana that we ran out of time!

We had timed tickets for the National Archives, so we walked a block or two and after an introductory film and a then a bit of a wait, we were allowed to view the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and other documents of importance.  It was pretty cool to see the famous signatures--G Washington, B Franklin, John Adams, and of course John Hancock--but overall, this visit took more time than I expected, for just a few minutes of high interest.  Personally, I really enjoyed the introductory film, though--it told stories of three people who had used the Archives to research and tell stories of relatives or events in history, which renewed an old desire in me to do the same.  Maybe in another lifetime!

After the dimly-lit Charters of Freedom Rotunda (preserving the documents), the National Gallery of Art's sunny Sculpture Garden, across the street, was an appealing place to relax for a bit, especially on a hot day!

To the teenage boys' disgust, the plans for a late lunch included only granola bars from Mom's string backpack, soft pretzels from a street vendor, and promises of an early dinner after a short hour in the National Gallery of Art, which closes at 5.

The Gallery was full of beautiful and familiar works of art, and we followed a self-guided tour ("If You Only Have an Hour") locating its rare and most-prized possessions.  The only Leonardo da Vinci in the western hemisphere is at the Gallery, which is a beautiful building in its own right.

I really like this close-up that B15 took of the statue's face (it's Mercury or Hermes, the messenger).

None too soon for the teens, the museum closed and we walked to a street with plenty of restaurants, including a Potbelly's, where we refueled, rested and regrouped.  This was to be our late night in D.C., so we could see the monuments on the Mall by twilight, when they are all lit up.

Our first stop was the World War 2 Memorial, the newest one, added in 2004.

Next we viewed the sobering Wall of Names at the Vietnam Memorial.  Here the kids and I are looking at a rubbing that we made of a soldier's name.

The Korean War Memorial was the most haunting.  

We talked awhile with a man whose father served in "the Forgotten War," and he told me that each statue is based on an actual man's face.  I assumed the ponchos they are wearing was because the war was fought in a rainy jungle area, but he said that it was actually mountainous and freezing.  This inscription was also moving: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."

But the highlight for our family--and for many others--was the Lincoln Memorial.

It's powerful.  It's sobering, and it's moving, and we didn't want to leave.  It was especially great at night, I thought--more impacting than my memories of it from our 7th grade trip, although even by day it was a stand-out experience.  I was particularly moved by reading his Second Inaugural Address, which is engraved in the north wall.  It is well-known for its ending:  "With malice toward none, with charity for all...."  But I was surprised by the middle part, in which his sorrow over the war is so evident, and he states his belief that the war might be God's judgment on our country for its years of enslavement and mistreatment of blacks.  His Christian beliefs and sensibilities are so evident in it.  It's worth reading, if you haven't lately. 

And across the Mall, we saw the Washington Monument--which we would be touring on our last night!


Heather said...

For my high school graduation present, I asked my parents for a trip to D.C. I loved every minute of my trip. Your post has me looking forward to the day when BB is old enough to appreciate such a trip.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Heather, what a great graduation present to ask for!

Yes, I had been waiting a long time for our kids to get old enough. So glad it finally worked out.