Making Way for My Duckling
Robert McCloskey’s famous book Make Way for Ducklings tells the story of a pair of mallards who decide to raise their family on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden, a park in the center of Boston. Being born and raised in Massachusetts, my mother loved to read us this book at bedtime. My mother loved that it was in and about Boston, her home town. I was born there, but we moved to the Western part of the state when I was very young. What interested me most about this book as a kid were McCloskey’s illustrations, executed in charcoal then lithographed on zinc plates in a sepia tone. The illustrations earned McCloskey a Caldecott Medal in 1942.
Many books of the time portray a male dominated society, a trend which Make Way for Ducklings does not follow. When Mr. Mallard leaves on questionable purpose, Mrs. Mallard is charged with raising their ducklings alone. McCloskey portrays Mrs. Mallard as a capable woman who does not need the support of a male character.
Not bad for 1941.
Finding Our Way
The trip to D. C. was kind of hatched at the last moment. I talked my son into taking the first two days of his spring break, the only days he didn’t have crew practice, and making them into a quick trip to our Nation’s Capitol. There’s nothing like an adventure, and I love to travel!
Connor and I landed in DC with only backpacks, we got an Uber, and just 15 minutes later we landed at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. After marveling at the size of Lincoln and reading the inscriptions of his two well-known speeches, “The Gettysburg Address” and his Second Inaugural Address, we headed down the steps and saw the ducks.
My duckling is getting ready to grow up and go to college. I took him to D.C. to visit his top choice, George Washington University, where he hopes to study political science. I hadn’t been to D.C. since I was about 10 years old, and Connor had never been, but that didn’t slow us down a bit. We got a National Park Service Map and started exploring. It felt good to be traveling, finding our way together… just he and I.
Museums and the Mall
We ate sandwiches from the snack bar on park benches outside the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, nothing fancy but in the thick of things for sure. Connor loves history, so this was the perfect place to start our adventure. On the way to the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial we also stopped into the National Museum of Natural History where Connor and I marveled at early man and amazing mammals. We also found the “Blue Flame,” one of the world’s largest and finest pieces of gem-quality lapis lazuli. (oh all the ultramarine blue paint they could make…) and the Hope Diamond, all 45.52 carats of it! Wow.
We walked up to Capitol Hill and marveled at the size and historic significance of it. We stood at the steps of the Supreme Court Building, looking at the Library of Congress. Connor was thrilled to be in the seat of our country’s government, and I was thrilled to have been able to bring him here. We grabbed an Uber to GW’s Foggy Bottom campus for our first tour.
The Foggy Bottom Tour
Visiting George Washington University with my son was bittersweet. I can’t believe he’s gotten this far so fast. When did it happen? Just yesterday he was sleeping on my lap on the Disney Cruise because he was exhausted and wiped out by 6pm from all the fun and sun.
The Foggy Bottom campus is five solid blocks of GW buildings in the heart of D.C., you can’t get any closer to the epicenter of our country’s government than this. Connor had a permanent smile on his face throughout the tour, subtley reminding me of those Disney Days. I couldn’t have been more proud of him or more happy to be with him.
We packed a lot into day one of our two-day adventure. As the sun was setting, Connor and I checked into our hotel on Embassy Row and found a local place where we could enjoy some good pizza (something you just don’t get in Florida). We sat at the pizza bar in the back of the restaurant, warmed by the glow of the brick oven–taking the opportunity to recount our adventurous day.
Day Two of Our Adventure
We woke in the morning early, the iPhone alarm rang and we hit the ground running. We found a bagel shop with good reviews on Yelp that was just down the street. I’m glad we decided to pass up the Starbucks on the corner for some local color. We ate our eggs and bagels from paper boxes and sat next to a man with a miniature dog zipped in his coat.
Our second GW campus tour was not until the afternoon so we took some time on Tuesday morning to check out the Jefferson Memorial Despite the recent snow storm in D.C. we managed to find some cherry blossoms that were resilient, just like that mother mallard duck.
History in the Making
On the way back from the Jefferson Memorial we were stopped on the sidewalk by Secret Service, in fact all pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic was stopped and every intersection was blocked. We knew something big was going on.
And then he went, right past us. Trump looked directly at Connor, as we were standing on the sidewalk. We were experiencing history, as we watched the motorcade bring President Trump from the White House to Capitol Hill for a meeting on the Health Care Bill.
How cool is that?
The Mount Vernon Tour
The Mount Vernon Campus is up the hill and a bit out the center of things. We took a short bus ride up and toured the second, smaller campus where many freshman live, where you can find the sports fields and tennis courts, and some classes take place. It was a little bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of the center of D.C., tucked away in a residential part of town.
It was a quick trip, but we squeezed a lot into two days and one night. The Mount Vernon Campus tour was lead by an amazing student guide who talked about her internship in Congress and experience as a volunteer driving with Mike Pence’s motorcade. She said she gave the tours on her free time, “just for fun.”
By early afternoon it was time to head back to the airport and made our way home to Orlando by late Tuesday night. We were feeling good about all we got to see on our whirlwind tour of Washington. Connor will be submitting his application to GW, stay tuned.
I’m so grateful to have been able to make this happen for my son.
As parents, aren’t we lucky?
for being a part of my