On How Jessica Negotiates

“A practice trip,” I say to Jessica. “You think we need a practice trip before we decide about going to Italy.” Jessica loves to travel, and she spots a possibility for getting two trips instead of one. I don’t like to say she’s devious and manipulative, because I don’t think she actually knows how to be either thing. But she is a child who can keep her eye on the main chance.

I don’t need a practice trip,” Jessica says. “You need a practice trip.” She could be right. It’s been years since we’ve traveled anywhere more difficult than Disney World, and Disney World isn’t difficult at all. You just break out the checkbook.

“I’ll think about it,” I say, sounding exactly like my parents, a way I swore I’d never be, but what did I know.

“Mom,” she says, and gives me her Teenage Look.

A few days later, I am glancing through my calendar, and I realize that she has two days off school in October, and I haven’t planned any attendant care for her, which means I will have to take some time off work.

“We could go on our practice trip!” she says, when I tell her it’s too late for me to line up Reilly to hang out with her, and I can’t find anyone else on this short notice. I think about it. If I have to take the time off work anyway, maybe we should go on a practice trip. Or maybe I should just get over my aversion to Disney and book our holiday trip there instead. Then I remember the bastards in Anaheim and get mad all over again. Disney isn’t getting any more money out of me until I stop being pissed every time I so much as think the word Disney. It may take a while.

I remember we have some Southwest vouchers to use on a domestic flight, and they expire before the end of the year.

“Hmm,” I say. “Where should we go?”

I look up the Southwest route map. No, I do not care to go back to Anaheim. And I have no wish to go to Denver or to Dallas.

“Baltimore,” I say. “You haven’t been to Washington, D.C. in years.”

“I’ve never been to Washington, D.C.”

“You have,” I say. “You just don’t remember it. Do you know about D.C.?”

“We are studying the Constitution in social studies.”

“That’s cool.”

“And Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. George Washington was the first president.”

“That’s true.”

“And we are learning about the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence.”

“So maybe it would be kind of cool to go to D.C.?”

“That is where the White House is. And the Capitol.”

I am amazed that she knows all of this, that she remembered it for more than ten minutes after her teacher told her. It must hold a special fascination for her. It is a laborious process, for Jessica to remember something, and not have it shatter into fragments she cannot piece together. The world is constantly present to her, for there is so little of the past she can recall with any clarity, and I think maybe we should go to Washington after all, to give her something to hang the memories onto, so she can stand where the history she has so painstakingly memorized took place. I would like there to be some things that don’t shatter into pieces. Although it is true that the shards bother me much more than they have ever disturbed her.

“Also the Smithsonian,” I say.

“That is a museum.”

“Yes.”

“One museum, Mom.” She thinks museums are ridiculous, and I believe it is because you are expected to look at things there, and she has never really cared about things, except perhaps her princess dolls, and the Lord of the Rings action figures. But even they aren’t things, but stories. I have tried to explain that that is what museums are, storehouses full of stories, but she never believes me. She would rather talk to people, and ask them impertinent questions, which they almost always answer, I don’t know why, and you’re not allowed to talk to people in museums. You are supposed to be quiet. This is very hard for Jessica.

“One museum,” I promise, and we both know I’m lying.

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