Sheila’s footsteps

Sheila’s footsteps

Washington DC

Everywhere we go in Washington I think of my grandmother. She lived here for 17 years, working at the Australian Embassy, so I can’t help but be aware that I’m walking down the streets she walked along and seeing all of the places she saw.

Of course, we’re focussed on the tourist parts of the city, whereas Nanny lived the city. The streets and suburbs are familiar to me because of her stories – DuPont Circle, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and “Mass Ave”. Nanny arrived just after JFK was assassinated, and was here for the celebration when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, through Vietnam War protests and during the Washington riots following Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. She attended the theatre, ballet and opera, and had many stories of outrageous parties – with Embassy staff, naval officers and “the guys from the FBI”.

On our first day here we walked past the former Australian Embassy, now the Embassy of Peru. When Nanny arrived in Washington DC with no money to get home to Australia, they gave her a job. She was still there when they built the new Embassy on Scott Circle – that’s her fooling around during the ground-breaking ceremony. She worked in this new building for over ten years; until it was time to come home to Australia.

I can see Nanny here in DC – it’s her style of place. All classy Victorian and Tudor style homes, and the elegance of Embassy Row. Yesterday I caught the Metro to Arlington and found the first house Nanny lived in. It hasn’t changed a bit. Tomorrow I’m going to find the other house she lived in – it’s only up the road from where we’re staying. On Mass Ave!

I can’t go into any of these places – the Embassies or the homes – but I can stand on the sidewalk and imagine her with her fancy high heels, designer handbag and a big smile on her face.

She was quite a woman.

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