Our last day in Washington D.C. was much slower-paced than the other days. We started it at the White House Visitor’s Center, which I have to admit I have highly exaggerated in my previous written descriptions. I hate to say that. I hate to say anything negative about this great city, and at least they offer something for those of us who couldn’t go in the White House because the person who took the reservation had us down for May instead of June. (“I know how to take a reservation.” I don’t think you do.) And it did have some very interesting photographs and a video I would have liked to see all the way through, except I felt I may as well have been watching it on my couch at home for all the sensation it gave me of practically being in the back yard of said famous residence. And anyway, this was the only truly disappointing part of my trip up to this point. Not the Visitor’s Center – it was fine. But then the rest of my group knew from experience that an awesome view of the White House was just a hop and a skip away while I had no idea we were even sitting in its very near vicinity, until it was too late at which time I speed-walked to the back entrance instead of the front (rookie mistake) and got turned away half way there because the area was temporarily closed down for security purposes. My disappointment was thus abated by the fantasies about which important person might have been driving to the gate only yards away.
After the White House we took the Capitol Hill tour which disappointed as well. Not because it was boring or anything – it was actually very cool even though I didn’t connect on a very emotional level to our tour guide (this is very important to me) and there are several guides speaking at once in the great rotunda, their voices bouncing over the whisper spots like crazy so that I really couldn’t hear my tour guide over the one across the room. The disappointment was that my grandpa had really hoped I’d get a private tour like he did years ago when two girls – one pretty, one decidedly not – ushered him from his resting spot outside to some stairs that led to the very top of the Capitol. No such luck for me. Just the standard tour like all the other schmucks. My favorite part of this building was the statue of Helen Keller. She fascinates me – not an actress, a novelist, or a famous politician – but just a girl who overcame her own stubbornness and physical limitations in such a marvelous way that she is recognized in a statue in the United States Capitol and was laid to rest in the National Cathedral as well.
That’s another building we saw this last day – the absolutely breathtaking National Cathedral. I may write about that experience again later. I will say, though, that although I loved the things I learned – such as that precious tidbit about Helen Keller, I think I would have preferred to just go in quietly and sit in its overwhelming elegance and just listen for all the prayers that have been prayed there and feel the reverence it inspires, or even to attend an actual service. Taking a tour of it made it feel dead instead of alive, like we were filing past the chapels where faith used to happen, what a quaint little religion that Christianity used to be. You know?
We also visited the Museum of Crime and Punishment on this day, which is fascinating and gruesome and only made me wonder now and then, “Um, wait, is this a shrine to the bad guys then?” Because there was quite a bit more crime than punishment in the beginning. And then you enter the forensics area and the studio where American’s Most Wanted is filmed and the tributes to America’s law enforcement officers, and I felt almost safe again.
Our last night in Washington D.C. we spent on a dinner cruise on the Potomac. It rained off and on, but at the off times we could walk outside on the deck. I had lobster bisque and – well – I don’t remember any food after the bisque – yadda, yadda, yadda. But I do remember the laughing and the dancing and the romantic old couples celebrating their anniversaries and the frequent glimpses of DC’s most beautiful landmarks on the other side of the water as we cruised. It was without argument the perfect way to end our time in the capital. I breathed it in. I thanked God for it. And I was there. Fully, completely, there.