Tag: Smithsonian

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.

Three visit the Air and Space Museum

Three visit the Air and Space Museum

Washington DC

Our friend Gab has joined us in DC; she too is an aeroplane geek. So it was always going to be a big day when two aviation geeks and a space science nerd went to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

There are two ways to approach the Air and Space Museum.

Gab and I were starstruck, and a little confused at first, starting at the wrong end of the space race and working our way backwards from the moon landing. We soon got our bearings and marvelled and admired every slick, gorgeous piece of aeronautic machinery that we approached. We were amazed and bedazzled as any true plane spotter would be, overwhelmed by rockets, planes and spacecraft. Gab said “Beautiful” a lot, I said “Wow” a lot.

And then there was Don.

We lost him immediately on entry, spotting him every now and then as he darted between rockets and satellites. But a pattern soon emerged. As Gab and I wound our way through the displays, looking up, looking down, Don would suddenly appear in front of us at random moments.

“Oh my God,” he exclaimed at one point, “it’s a V2! Do you know what that is?”

“A V2?” I suggested.

“It’s a V2! Let me tell you about the V2…” and then he was gone.

And then he was back.

“Is that what I think it is?” he bounded across to a spacey looking spherical object.

“The Death Star?” asked Gab, only half joking.

“It’s the Telstar! Let me tell you about the Telstar….” and then he was gone.

And then he was back.

“Do you know how long I’ve wanted to see the original 1903 Wright Flyer?”

“Ever since you were a…”

“Ever since I was a little boy…” and then he was gone.

Back and forth as though attached to us by an elastic band.

It was one of the best museums any of us had ever been to. So much to see that by the end of our visit, Gab and I had walked roughly 37km.

And Don had run 163.