Thursday, June 15, 2006

Visiting the Air & Space museum...

Today was our first day in Washington, DC & it went very well. We had contacted friends (C's best man when we were married) who live in Delaware, so our friend T & his youngest daughter, E (who is 13-ish), drove down this morning & we met at our hotel. We decided to go to the Air & Space museum at the Smithsonian, which is a long-deferred dream-come-true for me. I grew up in the 60's during the space race & one of my most exciting childhood memories was seeing the live pictures from the moon & hearing the "One giant leap for mankind" live on tv. I wanted to be an astronaut from that day forward... & though I sublimated this desire with a lifelong interest in science fiction, it was very exciting for me to see the vehicles that actually made the space voyages of my childhood. In fact, when B & I were looking at an exhibit of the spare LEM module for the first moon landing I got all choked up, prompting B to comment, "Gee, Mom, I never really knew how important this was to you... " How do you explain the newness & excitement of living through the space flight era to a kid to whom the whole thing is fait accompli...? He certainly understood that I was moved by it all, though.

The picture above is Rufus in front of some of the missiles on exhibit, B's choice of picture location. When I asked him this evening what the best part of the museum had been, he replied, "Observing the missiles & how they worked." It certainly seemed that, whenever B was getting bored or overwhelmed by all the people, a missile exhibit was the perfect diversion... is this a 10-year-old-boy thing? I think that, until today, missiles were an abstract thing to him- something he'd heard of from other kids & made out of legos to shoot from his lego vehicles, but never really understood before. Seeing how they worked was interesting as well as sobering, & he assured me that his lego missiles never killed any (imaginary) people. I fully expect him to take home the design for the buzz bombs used by the Germans in the Blitz & make them out of legos, he was so fascinated... The WWII exhibits gave us a chance to talk about the war with the Japanese, too, which B had been puzzling over somewhat, as it occasionally comes up in our Japanese lessons. It certainly makes me glad that we've come a long way since then in our understanding & appreciation of Japanese society & culture. The other exhibit that B really liked was the one about computers in space travel. He enjoyed seeing the evolution of computers & the progression of equipment from room-sizes installations to micro-chips. We both enjoyed examining the CRAY super-computer circa 1976, with it's 60+ miles of wires & special cooling system.

B did astoundingly well in the museum today, coping well with the increasing crowds as the day wore on... lunch time could have been really disastrous, since the food court attatched to the museum was one big McDonalds with many lines & huge numbers of school-trip kids waiting in them. There was a smaller, somewhat quieter cafe upstairs, & B decided to try a chicken salad sandwich up there for the first time rather than stand in the lines downstairs. He scarfed the sandwich in no time at all, & was ready for more looking around for a bit, before we finally ended-up in the gift shop to look for gifts for his best buddy. Unfortunately the toy shop was downstairs, but there was only escalator access (that we could find) & B developed a morbid fear of escalators last summer, so I went down & found some fun stuff for both he & his buddy (plus the original model of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, that was used for filming the original tv show :). Then it was time to walk back to the hotel with our friends, go for a swim, sit in the sun & relax.

We decided to try taking the metro to Chinatown for dinner, as the concierge assured us that any type of food we could want would be found there, & having a 10-year-old & a 13-year-old with us, we really wanted kid-friendly food that was not to be found in the hotel. We also thought it would be good to take a foray into the subway system to see how B coped. Right after buying our tickets, two things happened... B announced that he really had to go to the bathroom, & we discovered that there was only escalator access to the trains in the subway station we were already in... After one false start, when B stopped dead at the top of the escalator & panicked, C asked B if he could lift him onto the first stair... & B agreed. He handed Rufus to me (he was afraid Rufus would fall...) & C lifted him on... & away we all went. We did every escalator the same way, & eventually B relaxed somewhat. He confessed to me on one of our escalator rides that the reason he was afraid was that he'd been playing on an escalator in San Francisco (in April 2005) & fell & hurt himself, but hadn't told us. I remembered that escalator, too- there was one outside the hotel restaurant & B enjoyed riding up & down it when he was done eating. I never knew that he'd had a scare. He seemed relieved to have the incident off his chest & we were certainly relieved to have him coping better with escalators... & all this on top of really having to go to the bathroom... we found a Ruby Tuesdays near the metro station & C took B right to the restroom when we got there. We didn't see them again for a while... but B finally arrived at our table & announced to the world how relieved he was to have all that diarrhea out of him! (Luckily, the one lady who overheard this announcement just cracked-up, which was another relief...) He blames the chicken salad sandwich & I am not going to push the issue by requesting that he eat another... ever. We all had dinner (& a lovely discussion of Harry Potter with our 13-year-old friend, who turns out to be as much of a fan as we are :) & got back to the hotel in one piece. C saw our friends off to the right elevator to find their car, & we made plans to meet them tomorrow at the spy museum, which is high on B's list of must-see places in DC. After a bath & short Pokemon card game with dad, B fell right to sleep. Wonder where Rufus will find himself photographed tomorrow...?


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