In Which We Go To The Parade

From an inauspicious beginning, Memorial Day evolved into one of those happy family days you can't plan, but sometimes "happen."

I made the command decision (Mr. W. was leaving town for business, so he had no say) that we were neither going to the pool all day nor staying indoors lounging (the default holiday postures), but going to the National Memorial Day Parade.

The news was not met with the unalloyed delight of innocent children eager for a patriotic outing, but rather with the highly alloyed, indeed jaded, protest of spoiled kids who can't face heat, humidity, effort, or time away from their precious gizmos.

Which only convinced me of the plan's fitness and necessity. (They look smart, my children, yet still have not grasped that whining causes Mom to dig in her heels.) "We're losing our country because half our citizens don't think there's anything worth celebrating or getting off our duffs for, there are men who fought in our wars who will be there and we are dang well going to applaud them and show in public that we love the country and care about these things."

I played the guilt card, I'm not sorry.

I am not a monster, however, and sweetened the pot with the promise of the Air & Space Museum and dinner in its cafeteria after. Plus we were going by subway, which was enough to get the little dudes on board; they are Metro enthusiasts.

So we slathered on the sunscreen and departed. We disembarked at the Navy Memorial stop, and paused to enjoy the waters there, and also to laugh at a drake and mallard who were resting in the fountains. (Shades of Make Way for Ducklings).  The memorial  at ground level has the feel of a ship sailing through downtown. Stand in the center of it and you get the feeling you're about to crash into the National Archives. It's pretty cool how the design makes concrete seem to have motion.

Then we walked a couple of blocks more to the start of the parade route, pausing at an ice cream truck for "snowies." Overpriced, but I rightly determined that huge cups of syrup-covered ice would ward off whining about the heat, which really is oppressive when it's 95F, humid and ricocheting off black-top.

The National Memorial Day Parade features veterans from every war America's ever fought. Re-enactors wear authentic uniforms for the early days, but real Veterans come for all the other engagements. The first year there were still vets from WWI, though no longer.

It's odd what kids know and what delights them. 9-yr-old Weed was delighted to see Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders and thrilled beyond reason when a PT boat paraded by. Youngest Weed, 6, provided knowing commentary throughout. When "survivors of Pearl Harbor" were announced, for example, he turned to me very seriously and said,

Pearl Harbor, you know, was the start of World War II.
I told him the war had actually already begun, but he was correct that it began for the US. To which he replied,
Well, right, but it wouldn't be a **world** war if we weren't in it.
Where does this kid get this stuff? He's six, and I don't recall checking Curious George Goes To Anzio out of the library. 9-yr-old knew all about the Code Talkers.
And the Band of Brothers and other heroes he has now seen in real life.
The Kuwaitis send a float in gratitude and a sizable number of them march in front of the float too.
Then came a review of military trucks and such, plus the marching of recently returned vets from Iraq & Afghanistan. By that time the kids were starting to get antsy, but I told 'em we weren't moving 'til we had cheered the men and women who were defending us right now, which we did, and loudly. So I felt better.

Then, true to my word, I marched them a few blocks over to the Air & Space, and my kids have now had the quintessential growing-up-in-Washington experience. That of participating in some massive event on the Mall in summer, being drenched in sweat, and finding relief in the icy blast of air that greets you as you enter the Smithsonian. Ahhhh.

Hubble 3D, shown on the museum's Imax screen, was an unlooked-for patriotic experience. I was mostly looking for a movie to cool the kids down in, but it's a remarkable film showcasing what Hubble is showing us and documenting the final updating of its lenses by a shuttle crew.

You come away both with a sense that the universe is more vast and astonishing than you've even imagined (you can see into a star nursery light years away) and simultaneous wonder at what men can achieve. It was truly awesome.

So... then early dinner, more museum crawling, and in a very pleasant, breezy, early evening, we took our time getting home, stopping to play in fountains and enjoy the remainder of the day.  Everyone was cheerful, and even Eldest Weed agreed it was a very nice day ("although the parade was somewhat boring.")