There is a way to behave at a memorial.
“Here we are. Abe Lincoln, kids. NO RUNNING AT ABE’S MEMORIAL. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? STOP RUNNING. STOP RUNNING. ELI STOP RUNNING. WE RESPECT THE DEAD.”
That’s right. I don’t care how dead and gone Abe is. This shit is sacrosanct.
THIS. IS. ABE.
The government shut down, which, obviously, meant that we should go tour our federal monuments on Saturday.
Mark’s goal, hailing from the Land of Lincoln and all, has been to get to Abe. Here for just under a month, the whole crew finally made it.
Here is Mark soaking it all in:
Tourist tips: It’s easy to take a Metro line to Union Station and then hop on a city bus, which goes in a circle around all the monuments in the city center, and costs very little.
Also: The marble at Abe is sweaty and slippery. And I didn’t really get that, because it wasn’t raining. Had I paid attention in Rocks for Jocks I would have an explanation. BUT I DIDN’T. #geology101fail
I took photos in which my children were not thrilled.
After wrangling the kids at Abe we walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The first thing my children did there was photobomb a tasteful soldier statue while two people were trying to take a picture of it with their phones.
A vaping man whose Insta they just dashed gave them a dirty look.
I shot laserbeams at him with my eyes as he walked away.
I gave the kids the same speech.
“This is a memorial. MUCH LIKE ABE. NO RUNNING. DO YOU GET ME? SLOW. SACRED GROUNDS. THIS MEMORIAL NEEDS RESPECT THOSE ARE BROTHERS AND DADS AND FRIENDS THERE ON THAT WALL.”
They nodded solemnly because mommy was being REALLY SCARY.
Eli didn’t get the concept of war.
“WHAT’S WAR MOMMY?”
“A. No yell talking. B. You know, it’s like when countries battle to the death over a variety of disagreements. C. Everyone on this wall died in war, or is missing.”
“THEY’RE ALL DEAD MOMMY?”
He was really glum after that, contemplating war and the dead, shuffling his feet and frowning.
I picked up a photo album leaning against the wall.
Whoopsie. Dead bodies with missing parts here and there. Not so kid friendly.
“Mark, it’s got dead bodies in it. Not appropriate for children,” I called out.
Eli and I continued on. Mark paused to contemplate a placard describing a helicopter crash.
Laila seized the opportunity. She picked up the photo album with the dead bodies and poured over it with morbidly.
“Laila-put that down!”
Childood’s over, kids!
My dad lost a friend in the war.
I remember this distinctly, because he came back from a business trip in Washington DC with a rubbing of the man’s name.
It was just laying around and I needed a scrap of paper to do watercolors, so I painted over it, not knowing what it was.
I was 8. He was upset.
I meant to make that up to him today. My damn phone ran out of batteries. I couldn’t call and get the name and make up for the incident of ’88.
One of the few times I’ve ever seen my dad real cut up was over his friend who died in Vietnam.
Not over the watercolors, but much, much later, when he got a letter in the mail from a high school classmate and shared it with me.
He spent his junior and senior year at an American school in Belgium because my grandfather was a chemist who ran some kind of factory out there.
The letter told the story of how their friend and classmate at the American school had died in Vietnam. We’d looked him up in the yearbook after Big Al read me the letter. The dead soldier had been beloved, the class clown. He was one of the names.
There is closure in knowing how it ended. Even when the details are awful.
Near the wall a man crouched on the ground and worked out a watercolor painting of a path cutting into woods.
I was curious about the work but I left him alone.
Drawing and painting and writing can get us through trauma.
Anyway, I hoped the man drawing at the wall felt peace near the names of his friends.
Eli was real glum about the wall until he decided to try to get a bird to land on his finger, with no success.
Then we got to the Washington Monument, or rather, a pond just beyond it. Not the Reflecting Pool, an actual pond.
The kids did not stand in awe of this national treasure towering over the pond. The gravel on the path on the other hand? They were enchanted.
Eli pocketed a fistful for his collection, shoving it into the pocket of his blue Puma. Laila threw sprays of it into the pond.
“CUT IT OUT KIDS,” I hollered, peering around for Big Brother. “THAT’S TAXPAYER GRAVEL.”
It was warm but shards of ice left over from a cold snap begged to be stomped on, broken apart, and thrown onto more thawing ice on the water.
“I’m tryin’ to crack it!” Eli said real wild-in-the-eyes like.
We moved on.
No more sanctity. Mommy was tired. So, so tired.
“And here we have George Washington’s penis,” I told Mark. “GO AHEAD KIDS AND HAVE A RUN AROUND NOW!”
The kids sprinted around the yellow grass encircling the monument, playing a game called ‘Evil bus driver,’ inspired by the bus ride to the monuments. Inexplicably. The driver on the city bus was very nice.
Laila shared that, in her opinion, bad characters in stories are more interesting. I told her I had to agree. She leads all sibling dramatic interpretations, and therefore, the bus driver (Eli) would be evil. And she would be just the girl to stop him.
‘ol George is undergoing maintenance “indefinitely,” according to a sign.
The elevators need fixing. I bet. Well, it wasn’t happening that day. Government shutdown!
The bookstore at the base of the monument was open during the shutdown.
“Closed due to the shutdown,” so reported the clerk.
You do you.
We headed home.