On our second day in Washington, D.C. we ventured into unknown territory for a mild-mannered family from Murfreesboro, Tennessee—the subway! (Buh-buh-bum) It took us a little bit to figure out the fare cards but once we got the hang of it, it was really convenient. On one occasion, we heard a subway musician playing somewhere in the bowels of the city. We never actually saw him but he was singing “Soon and Very Soon, We are Going to See the King.” During the song, we passed a man going up the escalator as we were coming down. He was singing along really loudly and shouting “Yes, Sweet Jesus.” It was just one example of a moment when something borderline crazy happened in/near a subway but fifty people carried on with their business like it was just another Monday.
Rule Number One when Living in a Large Metropolitan Area: It may seem like there are other people in the subway or on the street but they are just holograms. As long as you don’t acknowledge their outbursts, wild ravings, or their very presence then they don’t actually exist. Keep your eyes on the ground and your facial expressions completely passive.
Speaking of the subway escalators, it was comical how excited our kids were about riding them. Our hometown mall is only one level so a set of stairs that move by magic or possibly gerbil-power is mind-blowing. One of my kids looked like Buddy from the movie Elf the first time she got on the escalator. In other words, she nearly did the splits with one leg stepping onto the first available moving step and the other, more reluctant leg staying behind on the non-moving platform. It was all fun and games until we started seeing more out-of-order escalators than running ones.
Our first post-subway adventure was the Museum of American History. It was our favorite of all of the Smithsonian Museums that we visited. We saw Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog, a cool interactive section about transportation, and a gigantic American flag from the War of 1812 that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner.”
After a quick lunch outside, we checked out the Natural History Museum. Everyone should see an assembled dinosaur skeleton at least once in his life. It’s more amazing than riding an escalator. We also saw well-preserved animal specimen placed in realistic looking poses: Lions tearing apart a bloody antelope; Monkeys hanging from trees while picking bugs off each other; Giraffes stretching their trademark necks to reach the leaves at the top of a tree—purplish tongue and all. I liked it better than the zoo.
The high point for my husband was the moment when he showed our kids the family heirloom, the Rosser Reeves ruby (I hate to tell him that the guy’s first name who donated it to the Smithsonian was Rosser but since he’s expecting to pay for their college with it, I’ll let it go for now.).
The ruby was located near a lesser known trinket called the Hope Diamond. I was a little disappointed by the size of both of them. That’s what happens when you get your information about priceless gems from movies like The Great Muppet Caper.
The kids were nearly at the end of their ropes but we pushed on and walked over to the Archives. We stood in a line to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Then we went to a different part of the building to see collection of letters and photographs. There was a letter from a young boy in Cuba named Fidel Castro asking President Roosevelt for a $10 bill. Tired and hungry, we went to the old post office that has been turned into a food court. Knox and Ella got sweet and sour chicken, Lucy got sushi, and Brent and I got gyros. It was an international feast. For dessert, I bought the kids each an ice cream cone at Ben & Jerry’s. As I paid the cashier my $25 for the three one-scoop cones, I reflected on the events of the day. We had learned a lot about our country and our world, but the real epiphany was that I bet Castro was asking FDR for some cash so he could afford a scoop of Chunky Monkey. That’s all we really want, isn’t it?