So, although my three oldest children have been to DC in recent years on their own visits to Grandfather and Hilary, this was our first, the enjoyment of which was greatly facilitated by extra hands to handle Joseph, who could probably run from one quadrant to the next without taking a breath – unless it was to complain.
Friday, we met with Dr. Jem Sullivan, adjunct faculty at the Domincan House of Studies and a docent at the National Gallery – she gave us a lovely, informative tour of a good baker’s dozen (plus some) of the more significant medieval and Renaissance pieces in the collection, an experience greatly enhanced by my father’s decision, upon observing Joseph’s energy for about five minutes, to give him lunch, put him on the train and go across the river. Later, Michael to the Nationals game, the experience of which he described as "hot."
Saturday, we went to the National Archives, which I’d never seen on any of my visits – it wasn’t terribly crowded. It was startling to see how faded the Declaration and Constitution were – especially the former. Then to the Natural History Museum, for the boy’s sake. (Michael went back to the National Gallery). What a busy, busy place! Atlhough the DC museum certainly has an impressive collection, I have to say, I’m a little fonder of the Field in Chicago – it’s just more spacious, a little more relaxed, even when it’s crowded.
By that time it was after lunchtime, and it was so, so hot, so it was time to Metro it back down under the river and back to Rosslyn, where we parked Joseph and Katie for pool time, and went off, intending to check out how well the Basilica was publicizing us – quite well, we discovered, with huge signs in place, and to go to the JP2 Cultural Center. Well, the latter didn’t happen, because we decided to try to catch a tour of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. Good we did because, even though there was a 4 o’clock tour scheduled, and even though we got there before that, we just caught the indoor, ending part of the previous tour, and we’re pretty sure the brother announced that at that point, he was done for the day.
In case you don’t know about this place – go to the link and take a look. It’s hidden on this side street off of CUA (as are many religious establishments, of course), and it’s this beautiful church and gardens built for the purpose of training Franciscans to give tours of the sites in the Holy Land of which they held custody – so it’s full of all of these small-scale versions of things like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden of Gethsemane, and so on. The covered walks around the garden have plaques with the Hail Mary in every language you can think of. the gardens were featured in a recent issue of Southern Living.
Michael said that the time he was there before, the Franciscan guide was quite dramatic, with a strong "You are there" tone. Ours – wasn’t. Although he was, indeed, enjoyable. Older, rather than younger, with decades of service in the Middle East behind him, he hailed originally from Chicago, and punctuated the end of most of his sentences with a, "yah?" and almost seemed as if he was chewing gum, but I’m sure he..wasn’t.
By then it was time to go back for dinner, and Michael’s night with the boys while Dad and HIlary took Katie and I to the production of Hairspray currently running at the Kennedy Center. One of those movies that, of course, no one expected to like, but that, for and through its quirkiness, is charming in a John Waters kind of way. Sort of. We enjoyed the production quite a lot – energetic, colorful, rather brilliantly staged, I thought. And why does Edna Turnbull being played by a man in drag work so well? Why? It does, though. Don’t argue with me. Especially winning are Edna’s ritual, puzzled, response to the hateful taunts of the blonde mother-daughter team: "I don’t much cay-uh for them." I mean, Fort Wayne theater gives us their all, but it was nice to see a thoroughly glittery, imaginative production of something again!
Next morning was Monument Morning, since Mass would not be til noon. World War II, Korea, Vietname, Lincoln, and Arlington Cemetery. Quick impressions:
I appreciated all of the memorials – all struck me as fitting. From the car, the WWII memorial didn’t seem like much, but walking up to it and through it changed that first impression. It’s dignified, quiet, strong and communicates the immensity of the task and the resolve required to perservere. It also communicates, not so much national glory reflected in victory, but a sense of resigned, sad, realism about what sometimes must be done and sacrificed for freedom.
I was actually startled by the number of tourists pouring through Arlington at 10 am on a Sunday morning. It makes sense, though. Nothing else is open, so if you’ve got a tour, might as well take them to the cemetery. I was startled by how much I had to explain to Katie about who JFK was and why his assasination had the impact it did. I wondered where JFKjr’s body was, but then came home to read that his remains had been buried at sea. The simplicity of Robert’s grave is surprising – just a simple white cross with a plaque.
And then to the Shrine (well, a shower first, you’ll be glad to know), where Mass was such a wonderful snapshot of what it means to be Catholic` – a deeply and thoroughly diverse crowd – excellent music, a combination of some Latin and very good English-language pieces for congregational singing, simple, straightforward and accessible.
Back today in one shot – about 10 hours door-to-door, with two meal stops. A good trip, and now…to work!