Constitution of the United States


Monday morning we woke early, intent on seeing a few more major sites in D.C. We set out first for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which requires a free ticket for admission. Tickets sell fast, we were told, but we thought we were early enough. How we were wrong! The line for tickets starts as early as 6 AM, and the day’s allotment of tickets are gone between 8:30 and 9.

Since we were on the Mall, and it was early, we decided to get in line for the National Archives, to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We were the first to arrive, so we took up station just outside the door. The line quickly grew, and by the time the doors were opened it was easily a 40 minute wait to get inside. Once inside, our good position was spoiled by Tyler’s suddenly urgent need to use the bathroom!

Just outside the rotunda was a large exhibit showcasing the Magna Carta. I tried to explain to the kids the significance of this, but they knew it wasn’t the reason we were there, so didn’t pay much attention. Inside the rotunda, we spent a while milling about. Carina and I examined the displays, and waited patiently in line to view the major items. The kids, to my surprise, also waited patiently. They respectfully viewed the Declaration of Independence. Tayler asked what was the big deal, to which I responded the the document was a symbol of our freedom, and represented all of the things for which the colonists fought. Tayler, ever curious, asked “So if we threw it away we’d lose those things?”

We next rode the metro out to Arlington National Cemetery. We cautioned the kids to be solemn and respectful throughout the area. They did a fine job quelling their normally limitless energy for a time, and walked quietly with us. Several groups of school kids on a tour walked past us, joking loudly and generally cavorting. The twins sagely observed that those other kids were not following the directions. Tyler started to become very sad, overwhelmed by the somber environment, so she and Carina spent some time walking together. Tayler and I ambulated on to the tomb of John F. Kennedy, during which I explained some of what made JFK such a popular president and why his assassination was such a tremendous loss for the nation. The Cuban Missile Crisis is not something I feel I can adequately explain in just a few minutes. I also made the mistake of mentioning the possibility of conspiracy, which really caught Tayler’s interest. She came back to the issue several times throughout the day, asking for more details about Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and what evidence people had. Although it was taxing to me, I was honestly extremely pleased that she was asking tough questions, rather than simply taking my word for it. Several times I had to defer her questions, saying “I honestly don’t know, but that’s something we can look up together later.” I suggested Wikipedia each time, because she knows how to use that site on her own. By the fourth or fifth iteration of this, she exclaimed (quietly, though, since we were still in Arlington) “I hate Wikipedia! I want you to know everything first!” I was extremely flattered, to say the least.

After viewing the graves of JFK and RFK, we then went on to the Tomb of the Unknowns. Carina had previously explained the importance of this monument to the girls, and they were clearly moved by it. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the changing of the guard. Tayler was astonished to learn that someone stands guard there all the time, regardless of weather (“Even in the snow?!"). After some reflection, she was clearly impressed by the dedication and discipline of the guards.

After Arlington, we went to a lovely Ethiopian restaurant, recommended to us by Chris. Carina and I loved it, Tyler accepted it, and Tayler couldn’t stand it. The restaurant was close to the zoo, so we went there. We were all starting to feel worn out from the vacation, so we took a leisurely stroll through the zoo, and only looked at those exhibits that really caught our fancy, rather than trying to see everything. On our way out, the girls visited the gift shop while I waited on a bench outside. While there, I met Russell, a Vietnam veteran who worked at the zoo. He told me about his two sons, and how they had both graduated from college. Had I met Russell at a bus stop, or most any other public place, I would have ignored him as a weirdo. But there was something about the earnestness with which he spoke that really captured me. I told him about my twin daughters, and shortly after that the girls came out of the gift shop. Russell commanded us all to make time for one another, and to enjoy that time together, because before we know it it’s all gone. He began to get emotional, so I shook his hand and sincerely thanked him for his comments as I led my family away. I felt bad leaving Russell, because I felt like he had a story to tell, but I was worried that my family wouldn’t be as patient with him as I was.

Exhausted, legs and feet aching, we struggled on to Bua, a Thai restaurant on P Street, where we were joined once again by Chris. We all had a yummy meal, and an outrageously fun conversation. Tayler thought Chris to be one of the funniest people she had ever met, and spent most of the meal giggling when she wasn’t guffawing. As we wrapped up the meal, Tyler demanded that Chris come back to our hotel room for a bit in order to spend some more time with us. Tayler asked “What will he do there? I mean, where will he sit?” To everyone’s delight, Chris did agree to come back with us, where we all watched the last half of Harry Potter IV. Chris took his leave, and we settled down to sleep. I think I was asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

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