Hello, my friends! What a wonderful Spring we’re having. A thin, yellow sheet of pollen dusts my car at the budding births of plants, but I, and my looming headaches, refuse to cave to the abyss of sinus misery that comes with the brilliant waves of green grass and colorful spread of flowers covering flowerbeds near and far. No, I will exude enthusiasm for the abounding beauty, and thank my lucky stars, too.
Why is that, you ask? Well, to be perfectly blunt, I try a bit of optimism sprinkled with the daily drudgery of paying bills, chronic illness, and the pitter patter of children’s feet that turn into a thundering herd the second an ill-conceived slight has been batted from one to the other. Mount Vesuvius erupts, and I try to stay calm in spite of the earsplitting castigations spewed forth from once angelic offspring.
Yes, a vacation was needed, and a vacation, of sorts, I got. My first trip with the family in over five years began with a car ride to the Carolinas. Never having visited where some of my ancestors perched a blue moon ago, I walked in their footsteps, and placed flowers on a relative’s grave that I wished I could have known. Poignant, uplifting, and soul cleansing, the walk through history did these middle-aged bones good. All in all, the Carolinas were a breath of fresh air in the otherwise shrinking world that I currently reside. It was a chance to step outside and take off the many hats that we all juggle and remember, think, and observe with a quiet gratitude for those who treaded through harrowing paths before mine.
As if that wasn’t enough, off we headed with our brood to a surprise destination. Planned on the sly, my children were sleuths in the dead of night, planning and betting where we’d end up. Sadly, the surprise turned out to be all in my head as they adeptly figured out that Washington D.C. was our destination.
Oh Washington, how sweet the cherry blossoms sway. Throngs of people and motorists swarm your streets to immerse in your secrets, history, and high-priced lodgings. Pink tipped extremities burned and tingled in your gale force winds that not even a thick, fur lined coat (not real fur, folks!) could shut out. We grace your city streets full of honking motorists, braved our way through endless bag checks, metal detectors, and x-ray machines to enter the belly of the beast known as The National Mall.
Now, for anyone NOT familiar with The National Mall, it is not a mall at all. Instead of filled with storefronts and eateries, it is jam-packed with ancient relics, noble attire, and precious stones that would make an historian apoplectic. Museums, my friends, that go on for miles, and you can’t visit them all. No-ho-ho! We would have needed to stay a couple of weeks or more to purview the multitude of historical papers, inventions, and history that abounds behind those hallowed walls. Free to the public, one could bask in the glory of dinosaurs, mineral ores and precious gemstones, ancient Egyptian mummies, and stuffed animals galore.
Of course, my family had a predestined path of visiting the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of American History, and the American Air and Space Museum. Pounding foot to pavement, we must have walked several miles each day to take in the sights, including the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. I have to say, though, that The National Archives took my breath away.
Of all the places we visited, The National Archives was the quietest. The U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the granddaddy of them all, The U.S. Constitution were kept in a dim room, stationed under thick, bulletproof glass, and surrounded by guards. The faded ink could not hide the significance of those beautiful documents. Nothing could break the reverie that I felt in those few moments as we all patiently waited in line to see what those Founding Fathers signed all those years ago.
One by one, man, woman, and child filed in orderly fashion. Some pointed, some asked questions to the armed guards, but all were respectful. Of course, I’m brimming with pride as the wide-eyed wonder of my children peered at those documents that have been burned into their memory banks from multiple school lessons. I stood a little bit taller explaining the significance of each document to my children. When at last we viewed The U.S. Constitution, I admit that I held back a tear. Not wanting to draw attention, I pointed out the signatures to my children and hesitated for a second before walking off in awe.
So, as my family is making our way down the marbled staircase to exit the building, I glance down at my youngest son, who is in the second grade, and I enthusiastically stated how happy I was to have seen those documents with my own eyes to which he replied, “They only displayed a part of The U.S. Constitution.” In my astonishment, I stared down at him, stopped on the stairwell. “What?” I asked. He said, “They only showed through Article Four. That’s not right.”
In my chagrin and in an attempt to not snicker, I proceeded down the stairwell and out the door. Now, I’m exceptionally proud of my son for knowing that there are more than four articles to The U.S. Constitution. I’d be willing to bet that lots of adults probably don’t remember that. However, as little as he is, I can assure you that the whole document was there. Drat those little legs!
Anyway, we walked, watched, and walked some more, trying to see as much as our sore feet would allow. At the end of two days, we were exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. So, ready to throw in the towel, we awoke the next morning wondering what was next. And that’s when my other dream came true.
Packed back into the cramped car, we all passed the time listening to the radio while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. I, like my children, took in the countryside of Maryland as we headed North to … Gettysburg. As a huge history nerd, I’ve always wanted to visit, but time, money, and circumstances never allowed me the honor. So, when my spouse sprung it on us the night before, I was thrilled to say the least. The 70 mile journey took an hour and a half, but it was well worth it. Snuggled into the countryside and just across the Pennsylvania border, we arrived.
Since I’d learned a lot over the years from my father and brother about Gettysburg, I anticipated a few things. However, I was taken aback at the scope of the battlefield. I have walked a few Civil War sites in my time, but there was no walking Gettysburg. The Visitor’s Center was a treasure trove of relics, an outstanding movie narrated by Morgan Freeman, and a cafeteria that met my youngest’s approval.
After spending a couple of hours at the Visitor’s Center, the kids and I got our picture taken by the metal statue of Abraham Lincoln and off we went to buckle up for a three hour audio ride around the park. Although I do have to mention that I picked up a few books in the store about Lincoln, the Civil War, and Civil War Pharmacy. All of which will be used for the third installment of The Protectorate series!
In a nutshell, we had a great time. Even my kids didn’t complain. All in all, I’d say it was a win. Of course, I wouldn’t take toddlers or babies as you wouldn’t get your money’s worth, but it’s a must for any history lover out there.
After returning home, I took the time to reminisce about our quick break to the Carolinas, D.C., and Gettysburg, and my spouse and I decided we’d take on The Freedom Trail next, but for now I’ll cherish the memories and am grateful for a much needed respite.
As for book news, I’ll give you this little tidbit to nibble upon. The Guardians is being edited as I write, and I’m happy to say that publication is right around the corner. Book cover is done, and rewrites have been worked. So, stay tuned!
© photo by IM²
What about you?! What trips have you taken recently? Do you have a favorite vacation spot? Are you a history lover? Comment below!
Until then, happy reading!