So we drove down to the National Mall, found a great spot with free parking and off we went.
First we walked past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was overwhelming to see all of those names engraved on that very large wall. Men and women, from ages 15 to 63 years, who all lost their lives in war. All 58,260 of them. It's very moving to see.
Next, we went to the Lincoln Memorial. How does one describe this monument? Gigantic, magnificent, spectacular? As I looked up at President Lincoln, I wondered how he would feel having something so large made of him. But there he sits, looking out over the Mall.
I wish I had recorded all of the fascinating facts that Ryan and Tiffany's son told us about all of the monuments that we saw that night. He is a walking encyclopedia. He went on a field trip to Washington D.C. last year in his 5th grade class and was taught many things that the average person would not know. And he remembers every single one of them.
Here's an example, Mr. Lincoln's statue has two distinct halves- one side represents peace. The other, war. One hand is in a fist, the other is relaxed. One eyebrow is raised, the other is not. One foot is resting out in front, the other is ready to stand. I found that fascinating. There was also something about a face being carved into the back of his hair, and although we searched for quite some time, I never could see it.
Another neat thing in addition to the actual monument is that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on one of the steps to this monument. It is marked so you know exactly where he stood.
That's what I love about Washington D.C. So many important things in history have happened there. Millions of people have gathered there for presidential inaugurations. Crowds have protested there. Laws have been made and laws have been changed. Inspirational speeches have been given. War heros are honored in monument after monument. And a few years ago, at the Pentagon, lives were lost. Washington D.C. is a place that is full of vibrant energy.
Seeing these monuments at night is a must. They are lit up in a way that makes them feel- if it is possible- even more inspiring. For me, there is always a sort of reverence in the air at night. Things are still. And so seeing these monuments in that atmosphere- it just takes your breath away.
My favorite memory of the evening though, has to be running in the rain to see the White House.
The clouds had looked threatening all night, but when the lightning and thunder started, we knew we were in for it. I heard Ryan mention that when it rains, it just doesn't stop. I think he was a bit worried because we were so far from our car. Tiffany and I mentioned to each other how good we thought it would feel if it rained on us for a bit. It was the hottest night I can ever remember experiencing in my life. Then add to that, the humidity. So I was secretly hoping that it would rain. And rain it did! It was the strangest rain storm I have ever been in though. It was like someone was turning the sprinklers on and off whenever they felt like it. One minute, it would be pouring. The next, totally dry. I had an umbrella in my purse, but every time I opened it, it would stop raining.
By the time we got close enough to see the White House, we were all soaked. My hair, my clothes, even my eyelashes were dripping wet. We wondered if Michelle would invite these poor wet souls in to dry off for a bit. I'm sure she would have- but we later found out that the Obama's were out of town. Oh well.
It's the White House, can you see it?
It was a very memorable night. Again, one that I won't ever forget.
The next day was spent walking through the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. The best thing about all the museums in Washington D.C. is that they are free to the public. Very cool. They are full of memorabilia and artifacts and can be a bit overwhelming to go through. I saw the ruby slippers that were worn in the Wizard of Oz, Abraham Lincoln's top hat that he wore the night he was assassinated, various items collected from the families who lived at the White House over the years, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, and much, much more.
After touring all of these historical sites and museums- I felt two things. One, I am ashamed that I don't know more about my American History. And two, I am SO PROUD to be an American. If you can say both of those things in the same paragraph without sounding hypocritical.
Upon returning from our little jaunt away, we spend the next few nights back at Ryan and Tiffany's watching the HBO special, John Adams. Wow. What an amazing man. Thank you HBO for teaching me what I should have learned (or maybe I did?) in school. Watching this show, and having just been in a place where history happened, brought it all to life for me. I have so much respect and admiration for the men and women who helped to shape this great nation when everything was against them. It truly should not have happened. But it did. And today, we live in a free country enjoying the fruits of their hard labors. Our country is not without it's flaws, but it is truly the greatest place to live.
The rest of our time with our friends was just as magical. I will never forget our rainy day at the beach ("HOW is this a good day to go to the beach? It's gray!" Yes, Max, we should have listened to you!), visiting the ice cream store with more flavors than I have ever seen (bacon flavored ice cream?), tasting Rita's flavored ice- and discovering that I love frozen custard, listening to Erik read the first pages of Tiffany's soon-to-be, best seller, discovering a new favorite TV sitcom, watching Tiffany prepare a beautiful meal on the fly (how do you do it?), visiting out on the screened patio while the backyard sings it's night songs (I will never get tired of hearing that!), being taught how to save HOURS of time a week reading blogs- thank you Google and Tiffany!, and last but not least, just spending time with friends- making memories to last a life time.
Thank you, thank you Ryan and Tiffany for a wonderfully unforgettable 5 days!