I grew up in Northern Virginia, and for every school fieldtrip we went into Washington D.C.  and the surrounding areas.  Every year we saw the museums (my favorites were the National History Museum and the space one).  We toured the monuments.  We toured the white house.  We saw the real constitution, visited Mount Vernon, and generally took the whole thing completely for granted.  In fact, it didn’t even occur to me that we were lucky to live so close to DC.  I never gave any thought at all to where people in other parts of the country went on fieldtrips, I just knew that ours were always awesome.  This is where the spoiled part comes in.

I guess I just wasn’t a very curious child.  Take comic strips in newspapers.  We got the Washington Post and when a comic strip was dropped from the Post, I assumed that the cartoonist had died or stopped doing the strip.  It just never occured to me that the strips could and did go on without the Post.  (Not that we had the internet back then, anyway!) No, for me those strips were gone, to be grieved and forgotten.  Imagine my surprise when I moved to California as a teenager and saw that a strip long gone from the Post was still going strong in my new local paper.  That was probably one of the first times I’d ever considered something outside of my little self-absorbed universe.  Yes, people had lives and thing went on in the world that I never even thought of.  Not only that, but it didn’t matter that I didn’t think of them because they didn’t need my attention to go on.  Mind blowing.

The same thing happened to me with actors.  If they died on TV, I thought they had actually died.  The dad from Good Times is an example.  For years and years I thought that man had actually died and that’s why they had to write him out of the show.  I thought it was sooo sad.  …And then I saw him again in Die Hard 2 and FREAKED.  “Oh my gosh, he’s supposed to be dead!”  I wailed.  My husband thought I was kidding, and was very disturbed to find out I was being totally serious.  Come to think of it, that’s about when he began explaining, “Now, Karen, the HOT water is the one with the “H” on it!  Good girl!” in a sing songy voice…

None of these three examples put me in the greatest light, so why am I telling you this?  Well, I do have a point, and I’ll try to meander back on topic.  When we moved to California, I worked a lot of places.  One of those was a National Park.  More of a National Monument than a full-fledged park, and it was kind of a boring place to visit.  We used to get fieldtrips from the local schools there all the time, and the kids would be bored and whiny, and that was when I realized that not everyone gets to knock around DC for the day on fieldtrips.  I fully realized what a blessing growing up in Virginia had been.

My own kids are growing up in Florida and their fieldtrips are very different.  They go to the movies a lot.  To the zoo.  We just came back from seeing a play.  They have the occasionaly boat trip.  We visited the Everglades one year.  There are no museums around here (we’re culturally bankrupt!) and it’s kind of depressing.  It’s not that the trips are bad, just different.  Living near DC as a child has spoiled me but good.  I find myself longing to share DC with my kids. 

I’d like to go back there and take them to the Holocaust museum (this is the most sobering place I’ve EVER been.  It knocks you flat for DAYS).  I want them to see the huge elephant in the National History museum and to see the moon rocks.  DC is not to be missed.  Sounds like a vacation is in the works!  (Too bad we can’t time it for the inaugeration!)

One last tip from a Washington insider (eat your heart out Barack Obama!)… leave your car at home and take the metro.  You won’t find parking and if you do it will cost you an arm and a leg, and the streets were designed by crazy people and they make no sense and go in circles making it almost impossible to navigate.  Throw in the beltway, and… TRUST me, you’d much rather take the metro and be done with it.

…You’re welcome.