Kindly I was re-invited to The White House Holiday Open House to go after my quarantine is over: Dear Dr. Lai, We are excited that you are taking advantage of this special opportunity to see the White House decorated for the holiday season. Attached is a “boarding pass”…
I brought my oldest child, Tim, and we caught an early plane to the capital. This would be a belated birthday present for him. I had traveled with my two other children, Cara to South East Asia and climbed the highest mountain there, Mount Kinabalu and with Charles to northern Ethiopia but not with Tim, my first born, who was so focused that he hardly took time off from all his educational endeavor. Our first destination was the Nationals Baseball Park.
The weather was not cooperating. It was a misty, cold and overcast day and with the Capitol dome being under repair, the view was not as pristine as it should be. We walked to the lawn at the bottom of the Capitol to view the enormous Christmas tree or the People’s Tree traditionally given by the Minnesotans for the last fifty years, tall but decorated with straggly ornaments seemingly done by preschool and elementary school students. I looked diminutive and was dwarfed standing next to the gigantic evergreen.
Since Tim is a JAG for the US Army, a man of the Law, it was appropriate for him to visit the Supreme Court where justice is meted out, a stately building guarded by six security officers with the words “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW “ carved into the façade.
We walked over next door to visit the Library of Congress, with a more ornate façade but massive in comparison to the Supreme Court; guarded by the Fountain of the Court of Neptune, dry now in the winter, probably with dramatic water display in the warmer months, nevertheless it exuded tremendous energy and force. The open vestibule of the Great Hall with its gilt ceiling lent a dramatic entrance and invited visitors to enter and be embraced by the vast expense of knowledge yet to be learned and explored. Here the Magna Carta was shown commemorating the 800th anniversary of its creation. I had viewed it while it was exhibited in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston earlier this past summer.
We wandered through the tunnel to the Capitol for lunch. The rain began to pour as we walked along the National Mall towards the Washington Memorial at a leisurely pace only to discover that we were almost late for the visit to the White House.
The Christmas displays in the White House were resplendent with lights, glitter, crystal teardrops, ribbons and various ornaments. The tallest tree was in the Blue Room grazing the ceiling as though someone had remembered incorrectly its height, reminiscent of our yearly family argument over whether our tree should be eight or nine feet tall when we went as a family to pick our Christmas tree. Despite the opulence of the White House Christmas decorations, I still prefer my humble tree in my home.
The rain poured. Through the stark naked branches, a flock of geese flew through the grey wintry sky. We visited some of the memorials; World War II, the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the Reflecting Pool where ducks mostly traveling as couples diving in the pool for food with their bottoms up, the Korea War Veterans Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr’s Memorial. The MLK Memorial has many of his quotations, on one side of the stone from which an unfinished statue of the civil rights leader emerged are carved the words “… out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”
The Korea War Veterans Memorial is one of the more moving memorials I have seen. It depicts life-like somber, careworn, brave soldiers far away from home walking across a field of Junipers to represent the harsh terrain. Inscribed on a granite wall are the words: Freedom Is Not Free. It was even more surreal with the falling rain as the soldiers are wearing heavy long trench coats. Like the Ebola volunteers from the US, they were the nation’s “sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met”.
However brief it was, all in all it turned out to be a memorable mother and son jaunt.