Planes, trains, and no goddamn race cars. Can you please shut up about the race cars? I'm sorry I told you there would be race cars. Jeez. We have one at home.
To mark the anniversary of Amanda's death, we went and did some of her favorite things. It got us out of the house, out of our routine, away from the Internet and work and all the things that give me time to sit and reflect on my loss. And it was fabulous.
We got up bright & early Thursday morning, the electricity of impending adventure filling the air in the house as we scrambled to eat a quick breakfast. We got to the train station with only 5 minutes to spare (perfect for traveling w/ a 4-yr-old, but Amanda would have been vomiting with angst). The ride up was gloriously uneventful. Alastair was delighted and maybe a touch bored with train travel, though he had to admit it was far more comfortable than going by car--he could get up, pee, play with toys, and even had a fold-down table for his snack!
That same manic energy pervaded at the thought of underground trains, and he was making hardened DC locals giggle at his continual announcements on the Metro that our stop was next.
We checked our bags at the hotel and wandered off to the Air & Space museum, only to realize upon entering that there was no coat-check, and that we would have to throw our lunch bag away if we wanted to enter. This was not an ideal solution, and neither was walking the 7 blocks back to the hotel, but walk we did. Now, a 4 year old can do 7 blocks. He can even do 14. But asking him to do 21 because you didn't realize you'd need to store your lunch bag makes him crabby & tired. It will also make you crabby & tired because at some point you'll be carrying him.
Ultimately we got to Air & Space, and his mind was blown. All the airplanes hanging from the ceilings were cool, but the walk-through exhibits left him gape-mouthed, and the rockets! The scale-model of the shuttle! Exploration of space and hands-on exhibits and...and...and...! We even spent the $14 to ride in the flight simulator, which got us off our feet for a while and was actually pretty convincing, if a touch nauseating.
That child spent 2 solid hours in Air & Space. Every time he'd ask if we could leave, his eyes would catch something else that he HAD to explore. And of course, we HAD to go check out the gift shop, where he got a little toy space shuttle that became the GREATEST TOY EVER (if only for 24 hours).
Exhausted, we walked back to the hotel again, ate our lunch, checked in, and I passed out cold for an hour while he played on the floor. Honestly, where does the energy come from?
After my nap, we took the Metro to the Natural History museum, where I'd promised dinosaur bones. This child--this 4 year old child--walks into the dinosaur exhibit and immediately begins accurately identifying skeletons. Skeletons! He'd never even seen bones in his whole life, but he's identifying bodies by bones. Holy junk!
It took some prodding to get him into other parts of the museum, because really: what can compete with dinosaur bones? But explore we did, and with some pretty awesome results. When he saw the right whale suspended above us, he immediately identified the seemingly-inverted jaw-structure. He watched a video on octopi and marveled at the cephalopod remains. We identified species from "Finding Nemo", including the giant jelly-fish. He had an AWESOME time.
Once again we hoofed it back to the hotel, got ready for dinner, and headed out to the District Chophouse to meet some very dear friends.
The District Chophouse, I must mention, is one of my favorite places in the world to eat. Amanda and I discovered it quite by accident on a trip to see Curve play at the 9:30 Club back in '98 or '99, and I have never been to DC again without stopping there for a meal. Amanda quite enjoyed it, too, just as she enjoyed trains, museums, and travel, so it was important to me that we eat there.
Alastair hated it.
After a delicious dinner, it was time to take the Metro one last time for the day, take a bath, and put a boy to bed. I went downstairs with the worst possible book in the entire history of the world, and proceeded to weep openly in the lobby. Pro tip: on the anniversary of your wife's death (esp. to cancer), DO NOT read The Art of Racing in the Rain.
Friday morning, we got up, headed downstairs to a really wonderful buffet breakfast, donned our swimgear, and headed out in the cold windy rain to the rooftop pool. Now, before you think I've completely lost my mind, it bears mentioning that this particular pool is both heated and enclosed within an inflatable structure, so I was not endangering my boy too much. We splashed around for about an hour before dashing our way back through the cold wind to prepare for our final museum: the American History musuem. And that's where the wheels came off.
I had made the mistake of telling him that there were trains, motorcycles, and race cars. Because dammit, there used to be race cars there. Oh, sure: there were 4 big, completely awesome trains, a bunch of old cars & motorcycles, a Mack Truck, and even a trolley, but I failed my child because there were no discernible race cars. We even found a helicopter there--something he'd desperately wanted to see (but didn't) at Air & Space--but no race cars.
And he let me know his dissatisfaction. For hours. Dear sweet Jesus, we have a fucking race car at home. One that he can crawl all over with NO repercussions. It's not roped off, it's not behind a glass wall. He can sit in it, wear my helmet, and flip all the switches. But there was no race car in the museum. STAB STAB STAB.
We got out of American History with less than an hour before our train back to RVA, high-tailed it back to the hotel, grabbed a quick McD's lunch, scrambled with our bags through two Metro lines, and got to Union Station with 10 minutes before our train boarded. Again, Amanda would be puking and probably not speaking to me, but with Alastair the timing couldn't be better.
And he passed out on my lap for about an hour of the ride.
And he wants to go back. We had a really great time, and he's been running his mouth to anyone who'll listen about all the awesome stuff he saw, and he's excited about the possibility of going back. AND he started getting really excited about going back to the beach, too. Every time we were in the hotel he'd start yammering about how much the room was like the one we had at the beach.
So I think it's gonna be an AWESOME year with my bold little adventurer. And I can't wait. All aboard!