On our first day in D.C., I ask Jessica what she’d like to do and she immediately says she would like to see the White House, so we walk over to the concierge at our hotel and he gets out a colorful map and shows in very clear steps how to get there.
“Maybe you should mark that with a pen,” Jessica says, slanting me a glance. He does, and we set out. It is a fine October day, the sky is blue, and there’s a light breeze. We see other tourists about, but not too many.
“Is this it?” she asks.
“I thought it would be bigger.”
It seemed bigger the last time we were here. I don’t know why.
“It is time to take a picture of me,” she says. She knows me perfectly well, that photos must happen at all tourist sites, so she poses with her model smile, the one she can do on command, and I snap photos of her.
“Now I will take a picture of you,” she announces.
“Try to get my whole head in this time.”
“Mom.” She takes a photo of me that I will surreptitiously delete later. In my mind I am always twenty-five, and evidence that proves otherwise is extremely unwelcome to me. I glance at my watch.
“Our tickets for the Capitol are for 1 p.m., so maybe we should go find some lunch.”
“They will have lunch at the Capitol,” she says.
“Maybe. I’m not sure. I’ve never been inside.”
“The people who work there, the senators, they have to eat somewhere.”
This is true, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to eat there. But she is positive, and just once I think it would be helpful if the universe would prove her wrong. Just once. Because while I love her very dearly, sometimes she is insufferable.
“Let’s find out,” I say, and in a moment of insanity, I decree that we should walk from the White House where we are to the Capitol, which would be fine if we didn’t get lost. It is fairly hard to get lost in this part of D.C. but I am skilled in the art of not finding my way.
Eventually we get there, and Jessica asks the guard where we can get lunch, and he shows the way to the public cafeteria, and Jess gives me The Look, because she is always right and someday I will learn to accept this.
Later we join our assigned tour group and we learn facts that we promptly forget, but here we are where history has happened, and that is the point of this whole endeavor.
“Any questions?” the docent asks.
“Yes,” Jessica says promptly. “How old is this part where I am standing?”
“It dates from 1806,” the docent says.
“That is a long time ago.”
“Over two centuries.”
Jessica looks at me. “Are you as old as this building?”
“No,” I say. “I just feel that way sometimes.”
“This building is older than you.”
“It was here before you were born.”
“And it’ll almost certainly be here after I’m gone,” I say. “Or so I hope.”
“Some things should endure,” I say. “Don’t you think?”
She considers this. “There are too many steps.” Not a sentimental girl, my Jessica.
“Do you need to sit down for a while?” I ask. Even after all these years I never remember how much harder physical movement is for her than it is for me.
“There is a bench outside,” she says.
“I don’t remember seeing a bench,” I say, and we walk outside, and there is the bench. She sits down with a sigh.
“This is Washington, D.C.”
“It is indeed.”
“We should move here.”
This is what she says about every place we visit. “It is a nice city,” I say. “But I like home.”
“That is only because you know where everything is at home,” she says scornfully.
“But you could always learn.”
I don’t argue. Jessica is always right.